Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

16
Jul

By Joseph S. Nye

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When US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for their “shirt-sleeves summit” in California last month, North Korea was a major topic of conversation. The subject was not new, but the tone was.

More than two decades ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency caught North Korea violating its safeguards agreement and reprocessing plutonium. After the North renounced the subsequent Agreed Framework, negotiated by President Bill Clinton’s administration, in 2003, it expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has since detonated three nuclear devices and conducted a variety of missile tests.

During those two decades, American and Chinese officials frequently discussed North Korea’s behavior, both privately and in public meetings. The Chinese consistently said that they did not want North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, but claimed that they had limited influence over the regime, despite being its major supplier of food and fuel. The result was a somewhat scripted exchange in which China and the US would accomplish little more than professing denuclearization as a shared goal.

China was sincere in expressing its desire for a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, but the nuclear issue was not its primary concern. It also sought to prevent the collapse of the North Korean regime and the resulting potential for chaos on its border – not only flows of refugees, but also the possibility that South Korean or US troops could move into the North.

Torn between its two objectives, China placed a higher priority on preserving the Kim family dynasty. That choice gave rise to a seeming paradox: North Korea gained surprisingly powerful influence over China.

North Korea has what I call “the power of weakness.” In certain bargaining situations, weakness and the threat of collapse can be a source of power. To take a well-known example, if you owe a bank $1,000, the bank has power over you; but if you owe the bank $1 billion, you may have considerable bargaining power over the bank. China is, in this sense, North Korea’s over-exposed banker.

As a result, China has tried to persuade North Korea to follow its market-oriented example. But, with the Kim regime terrified that economic liberalization would eventually provoke demands for greater political freedom, China’s influence over the regime is limited. As a Chinese official once told me in an unguarded moment, “North Korea has hijacked our foreign policy.” Read more…

Joseph S. Nye, a former US assistant secretary of defense and chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, is University Professor at Harvard University.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on July 11, 2013.

15
Jul

Conflicting Interests

by George Packer

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American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge reconstruction package for postwar Europe, initiating the modern era of foreign assistance, he told his audience at Harvard’s commencement, “Our policy is not directed against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.” But, when the Marshall Plan was enacted, the Times headline was forthright about its anti-Soviet purpose: “AID BILL IS SIGNED BY TRUMAN AS REPLY TO FOES OF LIBERTY.” The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which President Kennedy signed at the height of the Cold War, created the Agency for International Development and placed restrictions on foreign military funding. In 1974, Congress amended the act, and required the United States to reduce or end military aid to regimes with poor human-rights records, “except in extraordinary circumstances.”

In the interests of national security, such provisions have been flouted by Presidents ever since their enactment. After a military coup overthrew an elected government in Chile in 1973, with the connivance of the C.I.A., President Nixon continued assistance to the Pinochet regime. Even Jimmy Carter, who tried to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, granted himself “extraordinary circumstances” waivers so that aid could continue flowing to sordid but strategically important regimes in Iran, Zaire, and other countries. In 1986, Congress imposed a painful contortion on future Presidents with an appropriations bill that stated unequivocally that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” But after 9/11 President Bush found a way to resume assistance to Pakistan, even though its President, Pervez Musharraf, had taken power by overthrowing an elected government. And, when Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak cracked down on pro-democracy activists in 2006, the Bush “freedom agenda” was quietly revised to keep the pipeline of aid open to a key Middle Eastern ally. Read more…

As published in www.newyorker.com on July 22, 2013.

12
Jul

Despite the chaos, the blood and the democratic setbacks, this is a long process. Do not give up hope.

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Roughly two-and-a-half years after the revolutions in the Arab world, not a single country is yet plainly on course to become a stable, peaceful democracy. The countries that were more hopeful—Tunisia, Libya and Yemen—have been struggling. A chaotic experiment with democracy in Egypt, the most populous of them, has landed an elected president behind bars. Syria is awash with the blood of civil war.

No wonder some have come to think the Arab spring is doomed. The Middle East, they argue, is not ready to change. One reason is that it does not have democratic institutions, so people power will decay into anarchy or provoke the reimposition of dictatorship. The other is that the region’s one cohesive force is Islam, which—it is argued—cannot accommodate democracy. The Middle East, they conclude, would be better off if the Arab spring had never happened at all.

That view is at best premature, at worst wrong. Democratic transitions are often violent and lengthy. The worst consequences of the Arab spring—in Libya initially, in Syria now—are dreadful. Yet as our special report argues, most Arabs do not want to turn the clock back.

Putting the cart before the camel

Those who say that the Arab spring has failed ignore the long winter before, and its impact on people’s lives. In 1960 Egypt and South Korea shared similar life-expectancy and GDP per head. Today they inhabit different worlds. Although many more Egyptians now live in cities and three-quarters of the population is literate, GDP per head is only a fifth of South Korea’s. Poverty and stunting from malnutrition are far too common. The Muslim Brotherhood’s brief and incompetent government did nothing to reverse this, but Egypt’s deeper problems were aggravated by the strongmen who preceded them. And many other Arab countries fared no better.

This matters, because, given the Arab spring’s uneven progress, many say the answer is authoritarian modernisation: an Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping to keep order and make the economy grow. Unlike South-East Asians, the Arabs can boast no philosopher-king who has willingly nurtured democracy as his economy has flourished. Instead, the dictator’s brothers and the first lady’s cousins get all the best businesses. And the despots—always wary of stirring up the masses—have tended to duck the big challenges of reform, such as gradually removing the energy subsidies that in Egypt alone swallow 8% of GDP. Even now the oil-rich monarchies are trying to buy peace; but as an educated and disenfranchised youth sniffs freedom, the old way of doing things looks ever more impossible, unless, as in Syria, the ruler is prepared to shed vast amounts of blood to stay in charge. Some of the more go-ahead Arab monarchies, for example in Morocco, Jordan and Kuwait, are groping towards constitutional systems that give their subjects a bigger say. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on July 13, 2013 (from the print edition).

11
Jul

By Bruce Ackerman

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As violence escalates, Egypt’s military is trying to bridge a widening political gap by promising a rapid return to civilian rule. But its gesture of accommodation does not get to the heart of the problem: the presidential system, inherited from the Mubarak era, virtually guarantees a repetition of the tragic events of the past year. A democratic breakthrough requires a more fundamental constitutional redesign, in which the contending sides compete for power in a European-style parliamentary system.

If Egypt had made that switch in the interim Constitution adopted two years ago, or in the revisions that Mohamed Morsi, as president, rammed through last year, it could well have avoided the current upheaval and bloodshed in the first place.

The presidency is a winner-take-all office. This may be acceptable in countries like the United States, where well-organized parties contend for the prize. But it is a recipe for tyranny in places like Egypt, where Islamists have powerful organizational advantages in delivering the vote.

Because their opponents will have great difficulties uniting behind a single candidate, Islamists could probably parlay their strong minority support into another presidential victory. To prevent that result, it is predictable that the military will suppress the political efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups — transforming the next election into a democratic farce. The next president would not only emerge with an illegitimate mandate. His victory would convert the Islamists into undying opponents of the regime.

Only a parliamentary system provides a realistic path to a more stable, inclusive future. Even if Islamist parties won a substantial share of the vote, they would not be able to monopolize power.

Consider the Brotherhood’s best-case scenario: Although millions of Egyptians took part in the street demonstrations that preceded President Morsi’s ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood could still win a quarter of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with the more orthodox Salafists gaining another 15 percent. In contrast, the non-Islamist forces are fractured into a number of different factions, ranging from Christian to social democratic. Although the Brotherhood might well emerge with more seats than any other single party, its non-Islamist opponents might nevertheless cobble together a governing coalition. Even if its opponents failed, the Brotherhood could not form a coalition either, unless it reached out to some secularists for support — especially since the Brotherhood could not count on the Salafists to always back it. Read more…

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University.

As published in www.nytimes.com on July 10, 2013.

10
Jul

The Chinese economy is marked by its dependence on others

By Martin Wolf

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China frightens the west. Rarely, however, do westerners look at how the world looks to China. Yes, it has made enormous economic strides. But it still sees a world economy dominated by developed economies.

Among the few westerners able to look at the world from the Chinese point of view is Peter Nolan, professor of Chinese development at Cambridge university. In a thought-provoking book published last year, he addressed one of the big fears about China – that it is buying the world. His answer is no: we are inside China but China is not inside us.

To understand what Prof Nolan means by this, one must understand his view of what has happened during three decades of technology-driven global economic integration. The world economy has been transformed, he argues, by the emergence, through mergers, acquisition and foreign direct investment, of a limited number of dominant businesses, almost entirely rooted in advanced countries.

At the heart of the new global economy are what Prof Nolan calls “systems integrator” companies – businesses with dominant brands and superior technologies, which are at the apex of value chains that serve the global middle classes. These global businesses, in turn, exert enormous pressure on their supply chains, creating ever-rising consolidation there, as well.

Using data from 2006-09, Prof Nolan concludes that the number of globally dominant businesses in the manufacture of large commercial aircraft and carbonated drinks was two; of mobile telecommunications infrastructure and smart phones, just three; of beer, elevators, heavy-duty trucks and personal computers, four; of digital cameras, six; and of motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals, 10. In these cases, dominant businesses supplied between half and all of the world market. Similar degrees of concentration have emerged, after consolidation, in many industries.

Much the same concentration can be seen among component suppliers. Look at aircraft. The world has three dominant suppliers of engines, two of brakes, three of tyres, two of seats, one supplier of lavatory systems and one of wiring. In the motor industries, as well as information technology, beverages and many others, the world has just a few dominant suppliers of the essential components. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on July 9, 2013.

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