Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

14
Jan

Japan, Israel and Britain are facing big problems of their own just as the U.S. needs their help.

By Ian Bremmer

There are three big unfolding stories for international politics and the global economy: The next stage of China’s rise, the continuing turmoil in the Middle East and the redesign of Europe. The three countries with the most to lose from these trends are, respectively, Japan, Israel and Britain. They also happen to be America’s most reliable allies in the world’s three most important regions. As 2013 unfolds, the special relationships that these countries enjoy with Washington won’t protect them from the worst effects of these sweeping changes. That is also bad news for U.S. foreign policy.

The further expansion of China’s political, economic and military power leaves Japan in an increasingly tough spot. The broadening and deepening of China’s consumer market creates critical opportunities for Japanese companies, but Beijing’s new assertiveness, particularly on territorial disputes involving Japan, is fueling nationalist anger inside both countries. The risk isn’t that the two countries will exchange fire but that emerging frictions will undermine the exchange of everything else, reversing the momentum in a commercial relationship that has become especially important for the buoyancy of Japan’s economy.

In September, the battle over a string of contested islands in the East China Sea rattled Japan’s economy. A move by Tokyo to assert ownership of the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands ignited anti-Japanese fury inside China, and Beijing let protests burn longer and hotter than usual. In the process, Chinese protesters destroyed Japanese stores and products in several cities and launched boycotts of Japanese companies. That month, Toyota and Honda’s year-on-year sales in China were down, respectively, 49% and 41%.

Japanese policy makers know they must hedge bets on trade with China by bolstering ties elsewhere in Asia. But Japan remains dangerously exposed over the long term to its dependence for growth on Chinese markets. New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to expand U.S.-Japanese security ties, and Washington can help defend Japan’s interests in the East China Sea. But it can’t protect Japanese companies doing business in China from the fallout over growing frictions in Chinese-Japanese relations—and that is the greatest immediate threat to Japan’s future. Read more…

Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a research and consulting firm on global political risk.

As published by The Wall Street Journal on January 11, 2013 (a version of this article appeared January 12, 2013, on page C2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Three Troubled Allies, One Superpower).

11
Jan

The case of the student gang raped in Delhi reveals how deep-seated misogyny remains in Indian society. Even as women are encouraged to study and join the work force, prejudice is rampant. It is time for change.

By Kishwar Desai

India has been transfixed by the Delhi gang rape which took the life of a young woman in December. Mass protests have resulted and the country has set up a fast track court to try the alleged perpetrators.

In the past few weeks, something has happened in India that we never thought possible: We have seen an unprecedented show of solidarity and anger over the horrific gang rape of a 23-year old woman, who later died of her injuries. The brutal killing of this nameless student — an ambitious young woman from a small town who worked hard to train as a physiotherapist and was a role model to her two younger brothers — moves us because she was one of us, a sister, a daughter and a wife.

For years, I have been writing about rape and abuse, about the killings of female fetuses, of girls and of women in India. But when I heard about it happening right in the middle of Delhi, in the heart of our capital, on a public bus, it felt like it happened to me. Fortunately, I have never had to experience rape myself. During my growing up years, however, I of course experienced molestation and verbal abuse by males. And even as a working woman it was part of my life — as it is part of any woman’s life in India. Friends of mine have experienced much worse, and they have been traumatized by it.

The young woman has been called “Nirbhaya”, the fearless, by the press, and she has become a symbol of India’s terrible misogyny. India’s middle class has held protest meetings and candle light vigils in many cities all over the country. The anger, despite reassurances from the government, refuses to die down. Even more unexpected has been the sight of young men pouring onto the streets, expressing their personal sorrow over escalating gender violence, as this emerging “superpower” becomes increasingly unsafe for women.

The response from the government has been slow and callous, with its clumsy attempt to squash the protests. This lack of empathy within the ruling coalition, and its inability to understand or comprehend the betrayal that Indian women feel today has left many aghast. Read more…

As published in www.spiegel.de on January 10, 2013.

10
Jan

Mammon’s new monarchs

Written on January 10, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Asia, Culture & Society, Foreign Policy, Globalization & International Trade

The emerging-world consumer is king

Intelligence agencies seldom take a sunny view of the world. Yet the latest report from America’s National Intelligence Council (“Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds”) is rather cheerful. The council frets about threats ranging from cyber-sabotage to nuclear holocaust (in a brilliant piece of understatement it warns that “Russia could become a very troublesome country”). But it argues that the most important trend in the coming decades will be the growth of the global middle class.

Britain, where the industrial revolution began, took 150 years to double its income per head. America took 30. China and India have pulled off the same feat in a fraction of the time and on a larger scale. The result is an explosion in the number of people who can afford middle-class luxuries, such as a nice home and a good start for their children.

The council is not alone in thinking that, despite the threat of bubbles and hard landings, the new middle class is the future. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that there will be nearly a billion middle-class Chinese and Indians—some 320m households—by 2020. McKinsey & Co, another consultancy, points out that consumption tends to follow an “S” curve. When people’s income hits a certain point, demand for consumer goods surges. It later levels off: a family’s first fridge is a colossal blessing, but two would make the kitchen seem crowded.

Western companies ask: how can we appeal to the new kings and queens of consumerism? And how can we compete with sharp-elbowed rivals from the emerging world? Dozens of books and articles have tried to grapple with these questions. Two stand out: “The $10 Trillion Prize” by Michael Silverstein and three colleagues at BCG and “What Chinese Want” by Tom Doctoroff, of J. Walter Thompson, a marketing company. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on January 5, 2013.

9
Jan

The New Power Map

Written on January 9, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Energy & Environment, Foreign Policy, Globalization & International Trade

World Politics After the Boom in Unconventional Energy

By Aviezer Tucker

Dmitri Medvedev wishes “Good Luck!” to the Nord Stream pipeline. (Alexander Demianchuk / Courtesy Reuters)

The energy map of the world is being redrawn — and the global geopolitical order is adrift in consequence. We are moving away from a world dominated by a few energy mega-suppliers, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, and toward one in which most countries have some domestic resources to meet their energy needs and can import the balance from suppliers in their own neighborhood. This new world will feature considerably lower energy prices, and in turn, geopolitics will hinge less on oil and gas. Within the next five to ten years, regimes that are dependent on energy exports will see their power diminished. No longer able to raise massive sums from energy sales to distribute patronage and project power abroad, they will have to tax their citizens.

The revolution in unconventional energy production results from technologies that make drilling and extraction from underground shale formations increasingly easy and cheap. One cutting-edge procedure, hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals, and either water, gel, or liquefied greenhouse gases into shale rock formations to extract hydrocarbons. Although the technique was first conceptualized in 1948, only recently have other technologies arrived to make it commercially viable. (One such procedure, horizontal drilling, allows operators to tap into shallow but broad deposits with remarkable precision.)

Hydraulic fracturing has been used widely for only about the past five years. But the result — a staggering glut of natural gas in the United States — is already clear. The price of natural gas in the country has plunged to a quarter of what it was in 2008. The low price has prompted changes throughout the U.S. economy, including the projected retirement of one-sixth of U.S. coal power generation capacity by 2020, the conversion of hundreds of thousands of vehicles from gasoline to compressed gas, and the construction and repatriation from China of chemical, plastic, and fertilizer factories that use natural gas as both raw material and fuel. By 2025, the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts, energy-intensive industries will create a million new U.S. jobs. Read more…

Aviezer Tucker is Assistant Director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

As published in www.foreignaffairs.com on January 9, 2013.

 

8
Jan

Eve of Disaster

By Charles Emmerson

The leading power of the age is in relative decline, beset by political crisis at home and by steadily eroding economic prowess. Rising powers are jostling for position in the four corners of the world, some seeking a new place for themselves within the current global order, others questioning its very legitimacy. Democracy and despotism are locked in uneasy competition. A world economy is interconnected as never before by flows of money, trade, and people, and by the unprecedented spread of new, distance-destroying technologies. A global society, perhaps even a global moral consciousness, is emerging as a result. Small-town America rails at the excessive power of Wall Street. Asia is rising once again. And, yes, there’s trouble in the Middle East.

Sound familiar?

In many ways, the world of 1913, the last year before the Great War, seems not so much the world of 100 years ago as the world of today, curiously refracted through time. It is impossible to look at it without an uncanny feeling of recognition, telescoping a century into the blink of an eye. But can peering back into the world of our great-grandparents really help us understand the world we live in today?

Let’s get the caveats out of the way upfront. History does not repeat itself — at least not exactly. Analogies from one period to another are never perfect. However tempting it may be to view China in 2013 as an exact parallel to Germany in 1913 (the disruptive rising power of its age) or to view the contemporary United States as going through the exact same experience as Britain a century ago (a “weary titan staggering under the too vast orb of its fate,” as Joseph Chamberlain put it), things are never quite that straightforward. Whereas Germany in 1913 explicitly sought a foreign empire, China in 2013 publicly eschews the idea that it is an expansionist power (though it is perfectly clear about protecting its interests around the world). Whereas the German empire in 1913 had barely 40 years of history as a unified state behind it and was only slightly more populous that Britain or France, China in 2013 can look back on centuries of continuous history as a player in world affairs, and it now boasts one-fifth of the world’s population. Whereas Germany’s rise was a genuinely new geopolitical phenomenon in 1913, the rise of China today is more of a return to historical normality. These differences matter. Read more…

Charles Emmerson is the author of the forthcoming “1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War” and is a senior research fellow at Chatham House.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on January 4, 2013.

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