Monthly Archives: December 2018

Review of 2018 and Outlook for 2019

Another year is coming to an end. It was a colorful and worrying one, with few problems solved and few conflicts resolved. Technological innovation continued apace, generating ambivalent reactions in many societies. The powerful effects of the flow of capital, content and human migration did not shrink much, if at all. Bots and ‘alternative realities’ are threatening meaningful communication. Mostly due to short-terminism, humans responses to Climate change, arguable the biggest threat on the globe, are meager. One of the cornerstones of European (and, actually, global) security, the INF Treaty, is now in danger of being terminated, while weapons continue to be delivered to crisis areas, like Yemen.

Conflicts simmer and sometimes burn — in Myanmar, the Near East, Eastern Ukraine, Columbia, South Sudan, Xinjiang, Libya, and other regions. The tragedies in refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan may exceed the suffering at the U.S./Mexican border and in Europe, but in general, it seems there is a great deal of misery and dysfunction across many of these borders. In the ongoing and increasing rivalry between China and the United States, no one yet knows if we will end up in the ‘Thucydides Trap’, with a bang.

The best example ever of cooperation among states — the EU — finds itself in dire straits: the UK is leaving, in a process so messy that even the existence of Britain is under threat (Ireland). In France, where there is urgent need of economic and social renovation, the yellow vests raise the red card in reaction to government reform measures. In Italy, the organized and contradictory populists took over a troubled country and turned it into a more troubled one. Germany, the (mostly) silent hegemon, has been consumed by ridiculous dramas of building and maintaining governments and has shown itself to be unable to play an adequate role in Europe’s politics.

Against this background, what is your forecast for 2019?

What do you perceive as the three most worrying issues? Where do you see reason for guarded optimism? (Provide three cases, for the latter as well, if possible.)

Thanks for being with us this year.

Happy holidays, season’s greetings, and all he best for 2019.

-Klaus Segbers

Let’s talk about BRICS

Some time ago, aspirations were high for setting new standards for social, political and economic developments in the BRICS countries. The hope was that these developments would diverge from those of America and Germany, from an increase in authoritarian behaviors in China, and from the lack of cohesion observed in the EU.

But now, as we scrutinize the state of affairs in the BRICS countries more closely, we find that Brazil has become notorious for hyper-corruption. Russia has become well known for breaking international rules and for its addiction to energy resources. India currently stands out for its bureaucracy and a fundamentalist Hinduism revival. China shows evidence of increasingly volatile cultural cleavages, and South Africa is plagued by significant uncertainties in governance. In short, where we previously expected to see new models for the future, there are multiple causes for concern.

Our questions are thus: Does it still make sense to address these five countries as a group, to see them as having numerous and significant similarities?

And, given the current characteristics of populism in these BRICS countries, are there any indicators for future trajectories of development that may support our previous expectations?

-Klaus Segbers

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