Edge of Change (Issue 012)

| | 18-05-2018, 09:05

Japan, China and South Korea get together

10 May 2018

This piece analyzes Mr. Abe’s invitation sent to the Chinese prime minister and the South Korean president, to come to Tokyo, and relates this step to Donald Trump’s recent steps towards North Korea. Furthermore, it states that the main push for this action had to do uncertainty over American role in the Pacific, as well as a possible trade war. In this regard, all three parties have their own interests, so while Japan sees China as the economic opportunity and South Korea as a key factor for its diplomacy over the Korean peninsula, Beijing, along with its economic interests, considers good relations with its neighbors as a significant step for projecting its soft power. Meanwhile, Seoul tries to smooth relations between North Korea and Japan by playing a moderator role. Furthermore, the article claims that while all three parties agree on the denuclearization, their approaches are quite different. In this regard, while Japan wants to pressure North Korea until it abandons its weapon programme, South Korea wants to resume its economic ties. Differently, China primarily wants to protect the stability of the North Korean regime.


Tech Companies are ruining America’s image (by Joshua Geltzer, Dipayan Ghosh)

14 May 2018

The time when America’s soft power was mainly represented by its dominance in the world of cinema and TV, is seemingly over. Now it is the giant tech brands, such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter that have taken over this role. However, the authors of this piece argue that their impact on the image of America has been very controversial and in fact, contributed to a number of its negative representations around the world. These platforms too often were involved in practices which promoted and spread extreme and destructive views, compromised the users’ privacy at astronomical levels by deliberately making their rules too obscure and interrupted the proper functioning of government entities; quite ironically, this latter problem backfired in 2016, when the Russia-centered online actors allegedly interfered with the U.S. presidential elections. Thus, the authors argue, if the U.S. is interested in sustaining its reputation as a harbinger of democratic values, it should reconsider its policies towards the tech sector.


Why are we taking Donald Trump’s Korea diplomacy seriously? (by Matthew Yglesias) 

14 May 2018

Matthew Yglesias makes an argument that Donald Trump always makes promises and never keeps them and will most likely behave the same way in the North-South Korean issue. Furthermore, the author strongly believes that Trump should not get all the credits for the breakthrough peace talks between the two Koreas since the North Korean president previously approached other U.S. presidents for talks and Trump’s negotiation initiative was mainly influenced by the progressive South Korean leader, Mr. Moon. At the end, the author underscores three scenarios that may happen after the U.S. president’s intervention: 1) he can do his best to represent the outcomes as a decisive diplomatic breakthrough to gain credits before the midterm elections; 2) President Trump might compromise his maximalist understanding of the American interests by agreeing to less than favourable deals; 3) finally, if he finds that Mr. Un is cold towards disarmament, he could make a U-turn, entailing a new escalation on the Korean peninsula.


After Surprising Election, How Much Will Malaysia Change? (by Champa Patel, Joseph Benedict)

15 May 2018

The Chatham House’s analysts explore the implications of the sensational results the recent Malaysian elections have brought. For the first time in decades, the opposition now led by the 92-year old Prime Minister Mahathir, has managed to gain the upper hand over the ruling UNMO led by Najib Razak. They trace this result back to endemic corruption scandals that haunted the former government, economic stagnation as well as increasingly populist policies that threatened the Chinese and Indian national minorities with alienation. However, it is naïve to expect radical policy changes; the contradictions between the parties are rather tactical. The new government will face a challenge of responding to the minorities’ demands, as well as building a careful strategy towards China; on one hand, there’s growing irritation with the Chinese influence, on the other, Malaysian economy cannot escape depending on the Chinese investment. 


Iran deal: The European Union's ugly options (by Teri Schultz)

15 May 2018

The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal left the EU with unpleasant choices: whether to oppose the Trump administration, preserving the deal despite the US sanctions against anyone doing business with Iran or to agree with Washington, abandoning the UN-approved agreement. When it comes to the first option, the EU must decide how far it can tolerate binding itself to Russia, China and Iran. According to the author, Russia might be a part of solution for drawing the U.S. back in, and Moscow can use this fractious situation to its advantage. Although Russia believes in resumption of relations with the EU under current circumstances, Roland Freudenstein, policy director of the Wilfried Martens Center for European Studies, argues that despite the fact that the EU states involved in the nuclear deal might feel the need to talk to Russia, the tensions over the hybrid warfare started by Russia against the EU, the Crimea annexation and situation in Donbass, will persist. 


There is a cost to Trump. We are seeing it now in Gaza (by Jonathan Steele)

15 May 2018

Jonathan Steele writes about the recent mass killings carried out by the Israeli forces at the gates of Gaza. He argues that if the same occurred on the streets of Tel Aviv, the Western governments would immediately express their anger and condemnation. But when it comes to the current case, it is met with silence by the most Western politicians. Israeli snipers wounded thousands of demonstrators instead of using normal police methods of arresting and trial. Despite the outrage expressed by the international human rights groups, Israeli commanders haven’t changed their approach. Mr. Steele refers to two main factors causing the protests in Gaza: misery and despair ignited by the 11 years of blockade, and routine ignorance of Palestinians’ demands for compensation for the deliberate ethnic cleansing they have been subject to. The U.S. provocative decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem automatically recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, has added to the anger and frustration. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and current foreign policy course in the Middle East will destroy any chance of successful negotiations in the future and will probably lead to adverse consequences in the whole region. 


Where is the Palestinian leadership amid this catastrophe? (by Jalal Abukhater)

16 May 2018

Amid the mourning of the Palestinians over dozens of protesters being killed and thousands- injured on May 14, many analysts blame the PLO government in being uncapable of doing anything to defend the Palestinian interests. Jalal Abukhater claims that instead of trying to consolidate the divided Palestinian territories and find a common ground with HAMAS that is now in charge of the Gaza strip, the administration wages a partisan campaign aimed at entrenching its power in the West bank, and even allegedly bribes the citizens in exchange for help. Thus, the radicalization of the rhetoric against Israel and the U.S. attitude to the conflict serves merely to appease the furious population. The author concludes that amid the shifting global agenda, with some of the Arab states now openly endorsing Israel in order to isolate Iran, such a myopic governance may only exacerbate the Palestinian tragedy. 


Why didn’t Putin interfere with Armenia’s velvet revolution? (by Lucan Ahmad Way)

17 May 2018

This piece delineates the major reasons why Russia, despite widespread expectations, chose to abstain from interfering into the Armenian protests and supporting the ruling Republican Party (RPA). The author argues that these events should help to dismantle several popular myths about Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy. First of all, he doesn’t necessarily suppress any democratic movement in the post-Soviet countries, although he definitely prefers not to work with them: when the other way is impossible, Putin’s Russia tries to co-opt a democratic government, as it happened in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. Secondly, Russia’s record of political interventions is far from brilliant: they failed successively both in Ukraine and Moldova and served to alienate their societies from Russia. Finally, there are reasons specific to Armenia that were crucial for Moscow’ decision: Yerevan is too economically and militarily dependent on Russia, so for any Armenian government a Westward shift of a kind Tbilisi and Kiev had previously undertaken can hardly be a realistic option.