Category Archives: General IR

China: “Autocracies Are Stable”

From the PRC Ministry of TruthPeople’s Daily Online“:

For the pro-America republics, such as Egypt, the United States hoped the authorities would answer the people’s call to end Mubarak’s long-time rule. For the pro-America monarchies, the United States needed to maintain the status quo because of oil interests and the potentially volatile situation in Iran. In those anti-U.S. countries, such as Iran and Syria, the United States would definitely agitate anti-government protests to trigger change.

The author, Zhang Xinyi is the English language Editor of the People’s Daily and a former Olympics News Service manager, suffice to say he’s probably a tad nationalistic or owes to job to guys that are.

The PRC doesn’t seem to get that all of these protests were homegrown, and unrest was inevitable, regardless of later intervention. Or maybe they do get it, and this is a rehash of the Chinese language stories they’re running. Either way to publish this kind of overly simplistic pabulum in English doesn’t do them much good.

Anyone outside of China is clearly aware that whatever the foreign forces in Libya are doing, unrest followed autocracy and clearly preceded NATO fighters.


Strategic Ambiguity? Or Just Incompetent?

In response to Kristof’s post about hugs:

“But weighed against those uncertainties are a few certainties: If not for this intervention, Libyan civilians would be dying on a huge scale”

How huge? Compared to which countries? China? Certainly not. Iran? Not even close.

Libya has 6.6 million people, less than the state of Ohio, roughly 1/3 of the metropolitan area of NY, slightly more than Wisconsin. If we really wanted to achieve the greater good, why not step in the Ivory Coast, which has almost twice the population? Obviously human rights is not the only factor here, why are our messages so freaking simplistic?


Why can’t we just use language that is more realistic about which humanitarian actions we choose? Our track record speaks to the fact that US is the only leading state when it comes to human rights. We often go above and beyond national and strategic interests. Why can’t we just hedge as to when we decide to do it?

If we wouldn’t cloak our FP rhetoric in so much polyanna BS, maybe people would take it more seriously. Something like: “Yes we try to support democracy and prevent genocide, but will only do so with military force when our interests are clear, an exit strategy is cleear, and there is broad international support for it. The US is not the sole guarantor in the world when it comes to spreading democracy, don’t count on us all the time everytime”

Instead we get Obama and Clinton defining human rights as a “vital strategic interest” which makes us look like huge hypocrites, and frankly pretty dumb. The examples of human rights abuses going un-‘punished’ by the US are Legion. Maybe this is the idea; to make others doubt our intentions and create strategic ambiguity. But it will eventually drain the US of any moral authority it may have on issues of human rights and liberties.

China Eyes Japan’s Big…Society

From the East Asia Forum, this is a translated article that originally appeared in IFeng, a Hong Kong based news organization aimed at Chinese readers.

Japan’s big nation and big society was laid down by the restructuring of constitutional government in the middle of last century, and the country has so far seen half a century of great results.

This looks to be a rather pointed rebuke to the CCP, and attempts to link China’s perceived (by the author and/or others) lack of social cohesion to the CCP’s limits on political rights, something Wen Jiabao would probably agree with, or at least somewhat.

According to its wiki page, IFeng is “one of the few privately owned broadcasting companies in mainland China able to broadcast information about events not covered by the government media, such as the coverage on the Rally Against Basic Law Article 23 on 1 July 2003.”

Maybe I’m reading too far into the constitutional argument in this article, but this does seem to be a pretty obvious rejection of the CCP. It’s no surprising to see this coming out of HK, what I’d like to know is what kind of exposure this piece is getting.

Pragmatism and Accurate Political Speech

A rather slight entry from a favorite blog of mine, talking about Cameron’s quote but which could be applied to any number of tone-deaf pronouncements about morality and foreign policy:

There may be a good argument that we should intervene where we prudently can, and that inconsistency and selectivity is an unavoidable part of international relations. But that argument is different and more subtle than Cameron’s latest spasm of morality, elevating one case to a universal doctrine without bothering to think about its implications for our policies elsewhere. 

It is disturbing at this critical moment in world politics to hear our leaders makes statements that are so diplomatically innocent.

Obviously politicians are just that, but there’s very little evidence that this kind of talk is really all that effective at swaying domestic constituencies one way or the other. Voters are pretty reactive when it comes to foreign policy for the most part, so the only real conclusion to make from this is that guys like Cameron actually believe crap like this when they say it.

I wonder if this is just a part of the political process: guys that think like this tend to do well in the electoral side of government and get to make stupid quotes like these while those who actually have the inclination to note the subtle but necessary realities of international politics end up writing behind paywalls.