Edge of Change (Issue 013)

| | 14-06-2018, 13:15

A coin for the U.S.-North Korea summit. May, 2018. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) 


South-East Asia: lots of elections, not so much democracy

26 May 2018

The Economist piece emphasizes the lack of democracy in South-East Asia and states while only one state can be categorized as wholly free (East Timor), remaining countries are either partly free or not free at all. The author also states that this deficiency has deep historic roots, and since the 1970s and 1980s there have not been transitions from authoritarianism democracy with three exceptional cases: People Power Revolution in Philippines, Indonesia’s long-term dictator Suharno’s resignation in 1997, and first ever free election in Myanmar bringing Aung San Suu Kyi to power. The article concludes that authoritarianism is firmly in place in this region due to two main factors which are the relative strength of states over societies and the ancient habit of patronage to reward supporters. However, it also claims that these two factors have their own limits as well. 


Defenders of the faith: why right-wing populists are embracing religion (by Tobias Cremer)

30 May 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 013)New Statesman’s cover article discusses the seemingly rising role of religion on the agenda of the European far right in such countries as Germany, France, Austria and Italy. Their leaders have recently started to gather rallies around the Christian symbols and emphasize their willingness to defend Christianity from its alleged enemies and “barbarians”. However, the author argues that their use of religion seems to be instrumental: they need these universally recognized symbols to evoke European identity and acquire more serious legitimacy, especially among the conservative circles. However, the far-right leaders very rarely have strong personal religious beliefs and their supporters are, on average, no more (and in some countries even less) religious than the general population. The latest presidential campaign in the United States, where irreligious Donald Trump was reimagined as the hope of the conservative Christians. 

The author also demonstrates that the Church has mostly rejected the populist agenda and remained committed to mainstream right parties. He argues that it could thoroughly increase its political capital by using its Christian message to protect democracy and tolerance in times of trouble.


Modi Needs to Show India Has Teeth (by A. Trivedi, A. Searight)

31 May 2018

Considering uncertain political and economic environment in Asia coupled with possible U.S. withdrawal from the region, the authors of these article talk on India’s possible to take all the control in the region. According to them, India faces two main obstacles which are its inadequate defense base and weak economic integration along with its lack of national capacity for bigger regional policy. Regarding the military obstacle, the authors propose several steps such as strengthening its presence close to home like the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, calling on to help to strengthen the maritime capacity of Southeast Asia, expanding security ties with Southeast Asian countries, as well as cooperation with European countries. They also prioritize for India highlighting liberal values and buildingDelhi’s soft power. As a final remark, Trivedi and Searight believe that India is in the perfect moment to show the regional leaders that its leadership in the region is an obvious benefit for their countries.


Putin’s tough and indefinite line. What does Russia want from the outside world? (by Vladimir Frolov)

8 June 2018

Vladimir Frolov sums up the foreign policy messages voiced by President Putin during his latest “direct line”. First of all, it is clear that no radical shift in Moscow’s international strategy should be expected. While Putin recognized the need to accelerate the pace of reforms and adapt to the global changes, he emphasizes that Russia will not compromise in the issue of Western sanctions and prefers to wait until the “Western partners” eliminate them. Most probably, Russian leadership overestimates the importance of current rifts between the U.S. and Europe and within EU itself, expecting that the new populist governments in Europe, such as those recently elected in Italy and Austria, would eventually move the continent further from Washington to Russia and establish a kind of “continental union”. Putin’s ideas for reformulating the global order sounded too vague to be of any importance, and the major impression from the speech was that he is comfortable with the current deadlock and does not wish to make any real moves. However, the rhetorics towards Ukraine was more aggressive than usual, as the president threatened with significant retaliation in case of a renewed operation in the Donbass area. 


How North Korea Can Strike It Rich (by Stephen Haggard) 

10 June 2018

Stephan Haggard analyzes Trump’s statement regarding possible economic growth in North Korea in the case of abandonment of nuclear arsenal. The author believes that North Korea which possesses similar geographical traits and human capital with its Southern neighbor can undergo the similar economic route. In this regard, Haggard argues that despite possible denuclearization is a long process, lifted sanctions coupled with domestic top-down economic reforms can certainly add up the economic welfare of the country. Three possible fields for reforms are suggested for development which are agriculture, state-own enterprise sector, and foreign sector. During the whole denuclearization process, while the U.S. does not seem eager to provide aid, North Korea can benefit from the assistance of ADB, World Bank as well as South Korea. Meanwhile, Haggard also proposes three downside risks can be encountered within this context that mainly have to do with the unwillingness of the regime to enable genuine changes. 


How Qatar weathered the Gulf Crisis (by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen) 

11 June 2018

The Foreign Affairs piece analyzes how Qatar has managed to overcome the negative effects of the blockade and economic embargo announced in June 2017 by four other Arab states- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE and effectively override their attempts to bring Doha down to its knees. The tiny emirate adopted a smart strategy targeting both political and economic aspects. Throughout the last year, Qatar managed to increase its LNG imports to East Asia and Europe, acquire lucrative assets in the West and pushed for further diversification of its economy. Doha opened its territory for Turkey to create its first military base in the Middle East since 1918 and even managed to restore the U.S. trust, which President Trump confirmed in a telephone call to his Qatari colleague. The sheer range of Doha’s international partnership and its economic significance made the embargo states recognize that their mission could hardly be completed. 


China’s political meritocracy versus Western democracy (by Daniel Bell)

12 June 2018

Daniel Bells analyzes three main issues concerning Chinese political meritocracy and Western democracy which are: 1) does China opposes liberal ideology? 2) does China aim to export its own political meritocracy abroad and 3) in the case of China is willing to do so, can it be successful? Regarding the first question, the author concludes that while China embraces basic liberal values such as human rights and equality, it mainly opposes electoral democracy system within the context of liberal ideas. In terms of the second question, Bell makes it clear from the very beginning that Chinese meritocrats believe political meritocracy is particular to China mainly due to several reasons; the size of the country and its established long political history inspired peculiar way of political reforms which enjoys widespread social support. Finally, the last issue is backed up by the author in a way that even if China tries to export its political system it would certainly fail in the Western countries, since once people are granted to vote, they would never give up on this so only way to do so would be through changing the whole system. 


Russia Doesn’t Solve Conflicts, It Silences Them (by Ibrahim Fraihat, Leonid Isayev)

12 June 2018

This article discusses the motives behind the Kremlin’s involvement in the Middle East and strategies used by Moscow to solve the conflicts in the region. Authors of the article, Ibrahim Fraihat and Leonid Isayev argue that Russia is trying to emerge as a Middle East problem solver. Russia wants to show the West that wherever the West has failed, Moscow will fill a vacuum. Although theoretically Russia is supposed to resolve conflicts in the Middle East, Moscow’s conflict-resolution approach appears to be effective in freezing conflicts rather than resolving them. This situation can be explained by the lack of clear long-term interests and vision of a new regional order, and absence of guiding principles of Russian foreign policy in the Middle East.


The view from Seoul: why the Trump-Kim ‘deal’ worries South Koreans

12 June 2018

In his article, Hans Schattle discusses the possible consequences of the Singapore summit for South Korea. He is skeptical about North Korea’s détente policy. Many South Koreans are taking a wait-and-see attitude now. Trump’s promise to bring home US troops stationed in South Korea is worrying for Seoul as it might signal that the US and South Korea might soften their alliance. South Korea is worried about Kim Jong-un’s ambitions to reunify the peninsula on its terms. Even though it’s too early to predict the outcomes of the Trump-Kim “deal”, experts believe that Washington should establish a centre ground in its North Korea policy.