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?
We are watching the establishment of the first caliphate in recent times: ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). This is possibly the most distant political entity in comparison with liberal and secular societies.
The local people who didn’t or couldn’t flee are subject to harsh rituals of a strict Sharia. As a footnote, the rise of ISIS demonstrates the failure of the US led invasion of Iraq after 2001, as well the unapt policies of the Iraqi prime minster Maliki. Also, it amply demonstrates the second failed state in the same region, next to Syria. Given the volatile situation in the whole area – Afganistan, Pakistan, possibly Saudi Arabia – this urgent question arises.
Fatah and Hamas have just overcome a seven year rift and agreed to implement a unity pact. Both sides now want to form a unity government within five weeks to prepare for elections within six months. Israel´s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already said that under these new conditions, he will terminate the peace talks.
(Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet/Flickr/Creative Commons)