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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Affairs’

Stop Obsessing About China

Posted by hkarner - 23. September 2018

With such a president and such a democracy? (hfk)

Date: 22-09-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Michael Beckley

Why Beijing Will Not Imperil U.S. Hegemony

The United States is a deeply polarized nation, yet one view increasingly spans the partisan divide: the country is at imminent risk of being overtaken by China. Unless Washington does much more to counter the rise of its biggest rival, many argue, it may soon lose its status as the world’s leading power. According to this emerging consensus, decades of U.S. investment and diplomatic concessions have helped create a geopolitical monster. China now boasts the world’s largest economy and military, and it is using its growing might to set its own rules in East Asia, hollow out the U.S. economy, and undermine democracy around the globe. In response, many Democrats and Republicans agree, the United States must ramp up its military presence in Asia, slap tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, and challenge China’s influence worldwide.

But this emerging consensus is wrong and the policy response misguided. China is not about to overtake the United States economically or militarily—quite to the contrary. By the most important measures of national wealth and power, China is struggling to keep up and will probably fall further behind in the coming decades. The United States is and will remain the world’s sole superpower for the foreseeable future, provided that it avoids overextending itself abroad or underinvesting at home. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »


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Post-Truth Germany

Posted by hkarner - 21. September 2018

Date: 20-09-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Georg Diez

The Chemnitz Attacks and the Crisis of German Democracy

And if it never happened? Then, of course, nobody is to blame. There is no responsibility, and there are no consequences. The end of a common understanding of what happened is in many ways the end of politics, because to define problems and work on solutions requires common ground. Germany, like the United States, has entered this post-truth hall of mirrors. The stakes are particularly high, because a violent far right is rising, in a country still troubled by its racist and murderous past. The embrace of a discourse of “alternative facts” signals that Germany has moved far from the role it played during the early days of the refugee crisis, as the exception to the rule of resentment.

How did we get here? At the end of August, following the alleged murder of a German citizen by two refugees, a right-wing mob of several thousand people took to the streets in the eastern city of Chemnitz, shouting racist slogans, threatening and chasing refugees (or just about anybody who looked different), and fighting an overwhelmed and outnumbered local police force. The images quickly spread on social media. One video showed a group of a few men first shouting at, and then running after, a man who is seen fleeing across a busy street, avoiding several cars as he speeds along. The German media used the term Hetzjagd, normally applied to the hunting of animals, to describe this scene and others captured during the riots. German Chancellor Angela Merkel used this word, too, in her public statement condemning the violence. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Europe’s Quest for Financial Independence

Posted by hkarner - 2. September 2018

Date: 01-09-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Thorsten Benner

Brussels Will Find it Hard to Defy Washington—But It Has to Try

On Monday, France and Germany each gathered all of their ambassadors for their annual meeting in Berlin and Paris. In their opening speeches, French President Emmanuel Macron and German foreign minister Heiko Maas delivered markedly synchronized messages. Faced with the prospect of “America first” across the Atlantic, both resolved to invest in building “a sovereign Europe” that can assert itself. And both talked about “new alliances” to breathe new life into a multilateral order under assault by Trump. A French president pushing for greater independence is nothing new. But a German foreign minister calling for “a new, balanced partnership with the U.S. in order to regain our own leeway” is unheard of. What makes Maas’ intervention even more remarkable is that beyond the standard talk about military capabilities, he discussed two concrete areas of action: developing payment systems independent of the dollar to give Europe financial sovereignty and building an “alliance of multilateralists.” “Where the U.S. crosses the line,” Maas said,“we Europeans must form a counterweight—as difficult as that can be. That is also what balance is about.” This approach seeks to protect Germany and Europe against hegemonic overreach on the part of the United States and other powers. It is a direct reaction to the U.S. decision to weaponize the rest of the world’s financial and technological dependence on the United States. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Unconstrained Presidency

Posted by hkarner - 31. August 2018

Date: 30-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By James Goldgeier and Elizabeth N. Saunders

Checks and Balances Eroded Long Before Trump

In the age of Donald Trump, it often feels as though one individual has the power to chart the United States’ course in the world all by himself. Since taking office as U.S. president, Trump has made a series of unilateral decisions with enormous consequences. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed tariffs on Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union. In June, he single-handedly upended the G-7 summit by insulting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and withdrawing the United States from the group’s joint communiqué. In July, his European travels produced more diplomatic fireworks, with a NATO summit in Brussels that raised questions about his commitment to the organization—before his deferential press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Each choice has brought howls of outrage—but little real pushback. Congress, for example, has proved unable to block the president from starting a trade war with China and with U.S. allies. For all of Trump’s talk of a shadowy “deep state” bent on undermining his every move, the U.S. government’s vast bureaucracy has watched as the president has dragged his feet on a plan to deter Russian election interference. Even the United States’ closest allies have been unable to talk Trump out of damaging and potentially withdrawing from institutions of the liberal international order that the country has led for decades. How can a political system vaunted for its checks and balances allow one person to act so freely? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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How Democracies Can Fight Authoritarian Sharp Power

Posted by hkarner - 19. August 2018

Date: 17-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs

New Laws Aren’t Enough

All around the world, authoritarian governments are interfering with the institutions of democratic societies in ways that would have been unthinkable even during the Cold War. Universities, news organizations, think tanks, film studios, museums, publishing houses, and every aspect of the political process are being targeted by outside influence. This kind of sharp power is so effective because institutions in democratic settings are open to the outside world and thus vulnerable to foreign manipulation. Policymakers within democracies need to grapple with the challenge of repelling outside influence while upholding essential democratic values.

Australia offers a good case study. On June 28, the Australian parliament voted to adopt two new bills to contend with the threat of foreign political interference, which the bills defined as efforts that are covert, corrupting, or coercive. Although recent attention to meddling by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) motivated the legislation, the new laws do not single out any specific country. The first, the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018, updates the categories of behavior that constitute espionage and increases the state’s legal capacity to prosecute covert and deceptive conduct on behalf of a “foreign principal,” that is, a foreign government, political organization, or public enterprise, as well as individuals and entities connected to them.

Its companion, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2018, requires people who carry out certain specified activities on behalf of a foreign principal to register their relationship and disclose the nature of their activities. A proposed third piece of legislation, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, would prohibit political candidates from receiving campaign donations from abroad and create a public registry of non-party political actors, such as political campaigners, third-party campaigners, and associated entities. Parliament has not yet acted on the bill due to concerns that labor unions and nonprofits may face onerous registration and reporting requirements, but it has generated significant public debate and prompted some state governments to increase political donation disclosure requirements.

Australia’s civil society and media have played a vital role in the conversation about authoritarian interference and other harmful forms of influence. They have documented authoritarian activities, communicated them to the public, and vigorously debated the proposed legislation. Over the past several months, Australian universities, schools, China scholars, and other groups in civil society have voiced their varying levels of concern over, criticism of, and support for the laws. Australian and international media outlets have extensively covered the various drafts of the legislation. International human rights organizations have weighed in, too.

The issue has divided Australia’s scholarly community. Two groups of academics issued separate public letters, one expressing concern about the tone and precision of the public discussion, the other registering support for the debate as “valuable and necessary.” Some in civil society, as well as some opposition politicians, were concerned that the laws would define political interference too broadly, thus impinging on freedoms of expression and association.

As a result, the two laws passed in June incorporated over 200 amendments aimed at safeguarding civil and political freedoms. Although the amendments may not address every possible concern, the new laws will allow Australia to begin taking meaningful action against foreign interference while reserving the possibility of fixing legal problems that arise.

Yet Australia’s experience also shows that democracies cannot rely solely on governmental measures to address such a complex challenge. The world is still at an early stage of dealing with sharp power. For many years, Australia, and virtually every other democracy, did not recognize the growing problem or take the initiative to address it. For too long, observers in democracies interpreted authoritarian influence through an outdated lens, even as China and Russia embedded themselves in democratic societies as part of the autocratic regimes’ broader internationalist turn. As we noted in Foreign Affairs last November, China, in particular, has established platforms for educational, cultural, and other forms of influence within democratic societies. Such initiatives tend to be “accompanied by an authoritarian determination to monopolize ideas, suppress alternative narratives, and exploit partner institutions.”

Because sharp power can affect democratic institutions so subtly and in so many different ways, understanding how it works is a tricky business. For instance, China’s authorities can disguise state- or party-directed projects as private media firms or grassroots associations. The CCP can also use academic exchange programs and other forms of institutional cooperation to disseminate its propaganda. Our analysis of Beijing’s various influence initiatives suggests that the CCP seeks to preempt, neutralize, or minimize challenges to the regime’s presentation of itself. The Chinese government often portrays the country as a benign influence, yet it systematically discourages anyone from challenging its standing or positions, which can lead people and organizations to censor themselves, even when the Chinese government cannot censor them directly.

Democracies need better ways of responding. In the past, leaders of important public institutions—publishers, university administrators, media executives—did not need to take into account the prospect of censorship or manipulation by external authoritarian forces. Today, they must renew their commitment to democratic values and free expression. The institutions they run should establish common standards and transparency measures to reduce their exposure to sharp power and safeguard their integrity. Universities, especially public ones, might commit to publishing any contracts they have entered into with foreign governments or entities connected with foreign governments. Private-sector groups could adopt voluntary codes drawing from the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, or help set up new initiatives with other parts of civil society to discuss private and public responses to manipulation by authoritarian powers.

The same holds true for electoral systems. Until recently, election observers focused on upholding standards in countries where governments might seek to rig the election process. Today, democracies also need to defend their electoral systems from external attacks. Such measures could include ensuring that governments share up-to-date information about hacking efforts with local authorities and equipping journalists with the knowledge they need to report accurately on the types of foreign disinformation tactics that typically spike before elections.

In many democracies that are vulnerable to sharp power, there is a severe shortage of information about influence efforts by China, Russia, and other authoritarian governments. Attempts by these regimes to curb free expression and corrode democratic institutions need to be rigorously documented in order to create a shared understanding of the challenge. That will require independent sources of expertise, such as academic centers, media outlets, and think tanks that are unbeholden to authoritarian governments’ agendas and that can understand authoritarians’ political objectives and monitor their influence activities. Such support is especially important in democracies in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America that may be less able to defend their norms and institutions themselves.

Journalists, civil society organizations, and country and subject matter experts must work together—within their own countries and with international counterparts—to analyze events, share information, and combine expertise. They should consider how they can agree upon common institutional standards to safeguard the integrity of the public sphere within their democracies.

Australia’s new laws, and those that other democracies are bound to debate and adopt, may prove essential to defending against corrosive forms of authoritarian influence. But they need to be the beginning, not the end, of the fight against sharp power.

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The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy

Posted by hkarner - 19. August 2018

Date: 17-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Francis Fukuyama
Subject: Against Identity Politics

Beginning a few decades ago, world politics started to experience a dramatic transformation. From the early 1970s to the first decade of this century, the number of electoral democracies increased from about 35 to more than 110.

Over the same period, the world’s output of goods and services quadrupled, and growth extended to virtually every region of the world. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty plummeted, dropping from 42 percent of the global population in 1993 to 18 percent in 2008.

But not everyone benefited from these changes. In many countries, and particularly in developed democracies, economic inequality increased dramatically, as the benefits of growth flowed primarily to the wealthy and well-educated. The increasing volume of goods, money, and people moving from one place to another brought disruptive changes. In developing countries, villagers who previously had no electricity suddenly found themselves living in large cities, watching TV, and connecting to the Internet on their mobile phones. Huge new middle classes arose in China and India—but the work they did replaced the work that had been done by older middle classes in the developed world. Manufacturing moved steadily from the United States and Europe to East Asia and other regions with low labor costs. At the same time, men were being displaced by women in a labor market increasingly dominated by service industries, and low-skilled workers found themselves replaced by smart machines. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Regulate to Liberate: Can Europe Save the Internet?

Posted by hkarner - 16. August 2018

Date: 14-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Helen Dixon

Regulations to protect personal data don’t inspire much love. Companies frequently regard them as a nuisance, a needless expense, and a hindrance to innovation. Governments think the rules should apply to everyone but themselves. And ordinary people often act as if they don’t care whether their data is safeguarded at all.

But such regulations matter now more than ever. The world is increasingly defined by technological asymmetries; a huge gulf has opened up, with big corporations and powerful governments on one side and ordinary individuals on the other. Even in wealthy democratic societies, individual autonomy is at risk now that even simple choices, such as what news stories to read or what music to listen to, are dictated by algorithms that operate deep within software and devices—so deep that users are usually unaware of the extent to which data processing shapes their decisions and opportunities. Today, technology “is being used to control what we see, what we can do, and, ultimately, what we say,” the cryptographer and privacy specialist Bruce Schneier has written. “It makes us less safe. It makes us less free.”

Most people have yet to realize that truth. In the era of the Internet and mobile communications, people tend to focus more on the goods, services, and experiences that technology offers and less on the ways in which privacy is imperiled by software, code, and devices that have become an invisible but integral part of everyday life. Although many people want to have a sense of how data processing affects them, most aren’t interested in the details. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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When China Rules the Web

Posted by hkarner - 15. August 2018

Date: 14-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Adam Segal

Technology in Service of the State

For almost five decades, the United States has guided the growth of the Internet. From its origins as a small Pentagon program to its status as a global platform that connects more than half of the world’s population and tens of billions of devices, the Internet has long been an American project. Yet today, the United States has ceded leadership in cyberspace to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has outlined his plans to turn China into a “cyber-superpower.” Already, more people in China have access to the Internet than in any other country, but Xi has grander plans. Through domestic regulations, technological innovation, and foreign policy, China aims to build an “impregnable” cyberdefense system, give itself a greater voice in Internet governance, foster more world-class companies, and lead the globe in advanced technologies.

China’s continued rise as a cyber-superpower is not guaranteed. Top-down, state-led efforts at innovation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and other ambitious technologies may well fail. Chinese technology companies will face economic and political pressures as they globalize. Chinese citizens, although they appear to have little expectation of privacy from their government, may demand more from private firms. The United States may reenergize its own digital diplomacy, and the U.S. economy may rediscover the dynamism that allowed it create so much of the modern world’s technology. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Strategic Thinking That Made America Great

Posted by hkarner - 12. August 2018

Date: 11-08-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Melvyn P. Leffler

Melvyn Paul Leffler (born May 31, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York)[1] is an American historian and educator, currently Edward Stettinius Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

“Europe First” and Why It Still Matters

In the last few weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized key allies, called the European Union a foe, and labeled Russia a friendly, respectable competitor. By coddling Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump seeks to appease Russia’s leader, who is not only working systematically to expand Russia’s influence around the globe but also trying to support a growing number of authoritarian leaders who spurn liberal democratic values and free market practices. Trump’s strategy for advancing U.S. greatness is an “America first” agenda: minimizing obligations to allies, treating everyone as a competitor, freeing the United States from the restrictions imposed by multilateral institutions, seeking trade advantages through bilateral negotiations, building up military power, befriending dictators if they support him, and acting unilaterally in a zero-sum framework of international politics.

„Europe First“ never meant Europe alone.

Before Trump, the bedrock of U.S. grand strategy for successive administrations, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush, was “Europe First.” “Europe First” meant seeking democratic allies in key areas of the globe, especially across the Atlantic; embracing multilateral institutions; and thwarting efforts of adversaries to gain control of the preponderant natural resources, industrial infrastructure, and skilled labor of Europe and Asia. It never meant Europe alone. The strategy was the means through which policymakers sought to safeguard democratic capitalism and serve the most vital interests and values of the United States—abroad, but especially at home. Of all the pillars of U.S. foreign policy that Trump has jeopardized since taking office, his abandonment of the “Europe First” strategy stands to be the greatest loss. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Macron’s Reformist Victory

Posted by hkarner - 25. Juli 2018

Date: 24-07-2018
Source: Foreign Affairs By Sophie Pedder

And What It Says About the Future of Unions in France

When French trade unionists strike, the public pays attention. Industrial actions in Paris are traditionally accompanied by manifs, or demonstrations—theatrical, festive events that often involve beating drums, flares, and barbecued meat. Tales of stranded commuters and packed train stations fill the airwaves, and the world’s media turns its gaze, fleetingly, to the French streets.

But few foreign observers are still watching by the time a strike fizzles out. On April 3, the unions at the French national railway, the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF), initiated a series of strikes, and the public lost interest even more quickly than usual. What is most newsworthy about these strikes, however, is not why they began, but why they ended. French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to bend to long-standing taboos in French culture against defying the SNCF’s unions, as indicated by his insistence on reforming the railways. Unions will remain a powerful force in French politics for a long time to come, but Macron’s recent win against the railway workers suggests that the days of their unchecked power to block reforms may be drawing to a close.

TRADITION DERAILED Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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