Archive for the ‘Political Economy’ Category

7
Jan

Those of us who’ve worked on foreign affairs for decades disagree often and about much, but the advent of 2016 finds us all in agreement, to the point of cliché, on one thing: We’ve never seen a world so chockablock full of complex, dangerous and interlocking issues. For anything comparable in modern times, you’d have to go back to the late 1940s and the chaos following World War II.

Prediction now is as perilous as it was back then. Dozens of issues are rushing toward us, headlong, but we’re plunging in and highlighting the five biggest global issues of 2016: Syria, Iran nukes, China, Russia and the EU, and oil prices. In each of these areas, changes in one direction or another would be truly consequential — that is, they would ripple out broadly, like rocks thrown into the geopolitical pond.

To be sure, other issues, like cybersecurity, North Korea and climate change, will have short- and long-term effects, and, of course, no one is thinking about what inevitably will surprise us. Still, it’s a safe bet that the following five will absorb much of the world’s foreign policy attention in 2016. Here’s why:

1. Dealing With Syria

The country, now heading toward year five of a gruesome civil war, must come first. How the conflict evolves in 2016 will affect everything from the fate of the Islamic State to the European migration crisis, the stability of regional neighbors, volatility on the oil market, the status of Russia, and the terrorist threat level inside the United States.

The U.S. is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: gradually increasing military pressure on the IS by bombing, while seeking a diplomatic settlement satisfactory to Syria’s competing factions and the major powers trying to protect their conflicting interests — the U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The big benefit of this strategy is that it minimizes the United States’ chances of getting sucked into a quagmire.

But the big risk is that it is eminently gradualist — and assumes that the Islamic State is gradualist too. That is wrong. The IS continues to grow rapidly and expand geographically. Despite some recent setbacks – Iraqi forces appear close to recovering Ramadi city – the IS will likely achieve the capability to carry out or inspire more attacks like those on Paris and San Bernardino long before our gradualist strategy achieves its goal. Read more…

 

Published in  on Jan. 4, 2016 in http://www.ozy.com/

By John McLaughlin

The author, deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004.

30
Dec

Last Monday, at the conclusion of China’s closed-door Central Economic Work Conference, Beijing’s public relations machine went into high gear to show that the country’s leaders had come up with a viable plan to rescue the economy.

Unfortunately, they do not now have such a plan. In reality, they decided to continue strategies that both created China’s current predicament and failed this year to restart growth.
The severity of China’s economic problems—and the inability to implement long-term solutions—mean almost all geopolitical assumptions about tomorrow are wrong. Virtually everyone today sees China as a major power in the future. Yet the country’s extraordinary economic difficulties will result in a collapse or a long-term decline, and either outcome suggests China will return to the ranks of weak states.

As an initial matter, China’s current situation is far worse than the official National Bureau of Statistics reports. The NBS maintains that the country’s gross domestic product rose 6.9 percent during the third calendar quarter of this year after increases of 7.0 percent during each of the first two quarters.

Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s chief economist, a few months ago suggested the rate was closer to 4 percent, and growth could be as low as the 2.2 percent that people in Beijing were privately talking about mid-year. The most reliable indicator of Chinese economic activity remains the consumption of electricity, and for the first eleven months of the year electricity consumption increased by only 0.7 percent according to China’s National Energy Administration. Read more…

Published on Dec. 29 in nationalinterest.org 

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China.

7
Dec

Marion Marechal-Le Pen greets supporters (6 Dec)

The far-right National Front’s victory in the first round of French regional elections on Sunday will have an impact far beyond the composition of local governments and the shock it will have sent through the French political establishment.

In every single European capital, politicians will ponder the results and wonder how an anti-immigration, anti-European movement could become France’s first political party. They will also worry about what it means for Europe in a time of crisis — economic and existential.

The National Front may take over two, three or even more French regions after a second round of voting on December 13, but for many, the damage has been done.
1. Le Pen’s mainstream push pays off

Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s current leader and daughter of the party’s founder Jean-Marie, is reaping the rewards for her strategy of pulling the party away from the far-right fringes, ridding it of its extremist stigma, and courting the disenfranchised working class she says is being abandoned by the mainstream political parties of both right and left.

She stands a good chance of winning and then running the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, an area more populous than 12 EU countries. Her personal victory, winning more than 40 percent of the popular vote in an industrial area that was historically a stronghold of the Communist and Socialist parties, shows how many voters have drifted away from the ruling left, after seven years of economic crisis.

Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who is seen as more conservative than her aunt, notably on social issues, did even better in the Provence region. Other leading candidates also did better than expected, showing that the party has developed a grassroots following far beyond mere adhesion to Marine Le Pen herself. Read more…

12/7/15; http://www.politico.eu

26
Nov

 

china us

The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least2020.

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the U.S. and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made — and Xi’s ready to make it — that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again. After all, U.S. military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer — or “threat” — that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia. Read more…

 

By Pepe Escobar; Nov. 23

Published in http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176072/

11
Nov

 

According to conventional wisdom, states in the twenty-first century inhabit a fundamentally liberal world order. And while the current international order certainly has its discontents, most in the West like to believe that most of the world accepts liberal principles as desirable ways of organizing international affairs. Current events, however, highlight the extent to which this conventional wisdom is wishful thinking: international order is not an agreed-upon set of international compacts, but rather the site of vigorous political contestation, and the survival of its liberal character can hardly be taken for granted.

Europe and the United States are the architects and stewards of the rules, norms and institutions that together comprise what is commonly referred to as the liberal international order. The liberal order-building project can be said to have started during the age of Pax Britannica, when the world’s leading great powers—the European empires plus the United States, Japan and, to a lesser extent, the Ottomans—gradually came to routinize certain aspects of their relations with one another. Growing free trade, an expanded corpus of public international law, the use of binding arbitration as a mechanism for settling interstate disputes, formalized institutions and agreements to regulate commerce, communications and the process of colonization—all of these international developments can be considered germs of the present liberal order.

Read more…

Published by Peter Harris in the National Interest http://nationalinterest.org/ on November 10, 2015.

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