As expected, the first two weeks of the new US government were erratic. While governance by Twitter (and intermittently by judges) is something of a new political science concept, these first economic, social and cultural decisions are quite consistent with pre-election statements.
There is an ongoing debate in western and Asian capitals on how to respond. Wait and see? Making bold statements to indicate limits of the accessible? Trying to be friendly? What is your take?
– Prof. Klaus Segbers
“An international tribunal in The Hague overwhelmingly backed the Philippines in a case on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, ruling that rocky outcrops claimed by China – some of which are exposed only at low tide – cannot be used as the basis of territorial claims. It said some of the waters in question are “within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China”.” (The Guardian)
China has said from the beginning that it wouldn’t accept the ruling of the tribunal, no matter the outcome. But this ignorance doesn’t matter much – there is loss of face, and reputational damage. China has always been interested in demonstrating its rise as peaceful, harmonious, and within the framework of international rules. This claim has been weakened by regional aversion to China’s unilateral moves and now, additionally by the Den Haag ruling.
What does the international community do with this court decision and Beijing’s insistence on moving forward? Is it legitimate and prudent policy to hedge against Chinese assertiveness politically, or even militarily? Or is it more sound to accept that China is now a global power that doesn’t care much about court rulings?
– Prof. Klaus Segbers
World history couldn’t be written, or understood, without the history of coups (real and attempted ones). So last weekend’s events in Turkey fit into a pattern. 25 years before, in the hot summer of 1991, another attempted coup in Moscow was the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire.
It always is difficult to properly assess these extra-constitutional, mostly (but not necessarily) violent moves. The clove revolution in 1974 in Portugal certainly brought a harsh and unpleasant dictatorial regime to an end. It may have been illegal, but was it illegitimate? The attempted coup against Hitler by a group of Wehrmacht officers belongs into the same category. And what about the events on the Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989? In Turkey, the officers trying this not quite professional attempt claimed to serve democracy and human rights, but they opened the doors for a much more autocratic regime than before (which may have materialized anyways).
So this reminds us that history is often written by the victors. But, in addition, many events, like coups, are quite ambivalent. Do we have any clear criteria for sorting out coups, into acceptable ones and clearly bad ones?
– Prof. Klaus Segbers
Educating your people was one of the main prerogatives of governments. States preferred to teach students useful things – for the youngsters, and for themselves. This included certain perspectives on a state’s history, and politics. Today, these national perspectives are still around, but they are increasingly embedded into broader horizons. There is the Internet which is not particularly national, there are social networks, and there are media, transmitting
This is not necessarily to the liking of more or less authoritarian governments. Both the Chinese and Russian ministers for education have published statements according to which the activities and effects of foreign teachers, readings, and programs are viewed with quite some degree of skepticism.
What’s your take on this? Should governments continue to define the content (and its limits) of curricula for schools and universities – especially in the sphere of global politics and their own history – or should they give up and accept the role of global influences.
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
Anniversaries come and go, but now and then some are elevated to a specific interest, and play the role of a crucial date. This year, 2015, makes the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. In May the Russian authorities organized a huge parade on Red Square in Moscow. Then, for the 3rd of September, the Chinese ruling party have planned something similar on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In both cases, some foreign governments faced the quandary of whether or not they should attend and participate.
The reason for this is not some small historical squabble over this or that detail, but rather the value of these commemorations within the current paradigm. In practice, history is not what has been, but rather what we need it to be today.
So what attitude should governments hold towards the staging of historical memory?
The agreement between Iran and the ‘5 + 1’ group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) has been signed.
This seems to be good news for all parties involved for the following reasons: First, the economic sanctions against Iran will be lifted gradually. Second, the break-out options of a nuclear bomb for Iran will be reduced. Third, western and Russian economic cooperation with Iran now has the ability to blossom. And lastly, some people are now able to visualize potential for a more moderate influence by Iran in the neighborhood of MENA.
BUT, it is not quite clear if the agreement will actually be ratified. In Iran the highest leader Khamenei has verbalized some critical remarks, but he seems to be in overall support of the agreement.
The Israeli government is openly ranting about their unwillingness to form any agreement with Iran, just as they have in the past. The most difficult impediment the final ratification is facing is coming from Washington. Congress is very skeptical, and may try to de-rail this agreement after all.
Exactly a year ago, MH370, the doomed flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared. Not delayed, so far not destroyed, it just got lost.
Among anger and sorrow from friends and relatives of the 239 passengers and crew that disappeared, the performance of the governments involved in solving the puzzle hasn’t looked good – Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and China. Stuff happens. A catastrophe of such magnitude without any clues is truly exceptional, and therefore also, obviously, ripe with conspiracy theories.
So our question for this week is: putting aside technical matters, conspiracies and wild speculations, how can we explain such a disastrous handling of an event by applying International Relations theories?
Image credit: Flickr user Paul Rowbotham
Pasu Au Yeung/Flickr/Creative Commons
During the last weeks, tens of thousands took part in demonstrations in Hong Kong, demanding – in different ways and forms – more democracy. The protests were set in motion when China’s National People’s Congress announced that candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive elections would have to be approved by a Beijing-controlled committee; this, according to the protesters, contradicts the principle of universal suffrage that was established in the handover agreement in 1997. More recently some of the protest leaders became more daring and called for “self-determination” and “independence”.
So far, no meaningful procedure of conflict resolution has been established. The Beijing leadership tries to remain invisible, but calls the shots behind the curtains. The local administration is general powerless and clueless. Increasingly, ‘ordinary’ Hong Kong citizens feel embarrassed and harassed by the ongoing blockades of main thoroughfares and businesses.
In the mainland, many mid-level officials explain their conviction that the current form of governances is not sustainable. Against this background, Hong Kong could also be treated as a laboratory. But currently, the dominant position seems to be to prevent by (virtually) all means a June 4, 2.0. From the outside it is not clear what, if any, spaces for compromise exists.
The World Cup in Brazil is able to fascinate hundreds of millions of people, despite all facts and rumors on corruption, old men networks, irresponsible labor conditions in Qatar (host of the 2022 World Cup) and authoritarian and aggressive streaks in Russian politics (the site in 2018). The game is easy to grasp (“the round one has to be moved into the square one”), and easy to play. It mobilizes collective emotions second to no other global game, despite the fact that two of the biggest countries are still hesitant to get into it (India), or are not very successful so far (China), while the U.S. is apparently catching up quickly. Is the current World Cup worth being debated in terms of IR? Or are we, the experts, secretly sitting in front of our screens, or anonymously in the crowds of public viewing, hoping to get away with it incognito?