All posts filed under: World Affairs

China and the Difficulties of Dissent

Over the last couple of weeks, a small but dedicated band of free speech advocates at the University of Queensland (UQ) have managed to catch the attention of the international media with their protests against the Chinese government. The struggles of the protest organisers have a significance far beyond university campuses, as the recent media attention devoted to China’s influence over our politicians, technology, infrastructure, and educational programs demonstrates. The recent campus protests provide a timely reminder of the difficulties of dissenting from the entrenched orthodoxy that China’s rise is benign or even beneficial for Australia and the wider West. The Rise of Fascist China It is important to understand that China is a fascist dictatorship. The term “fascist” is now thrown around with such carelessness that it has lost most of its meaning outside the offices of a few historians or political science professors. But fascism, in its original early twentieth century incarnation, meant a political system defined by three attributes—authoritarianism, ethnonationalism, and an economic model in which capitalism co-existed with large state-directed industries …

“War Is the Least Conservative Undertaking”—An Interview with Dr William Ruger

The recently concluded National Conservatism Conference in Washington, DC, attempted to examine this post-liberal moment and the return to great power rivalry in foreign policy. It was no surprise that foreign policy realism billed one whole day at the conference—the realist outlook cuts across the political spectrum, and often unites national conservatives and libertarians against neo-conservatives and liberals.  For those who are uninitiated, realism in foreign policy is a school of thought reaching all the way back to Thucydides, which focuses on narrow national interests based on strategic concerns. In post-Cold War US politics, this usually translates into greater restraint and less activism abroad. I spoke to Dr William Ruger, Vice President for Research at the Charles Koch Foundation, Cato Institute fellow, and a foreign policy realist, about what the conference reveals about the current moment in American politics, and the foreign policy challenges ahead. *     *     * William Ruger: Neo-conservatism, interventionism, and primacy are tired vehicles that haven’t served American security, prosperity, or our way of life here at home. So rather …

When the Lion Wakes: The Global Threat of the Chinese Communist Party

China is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world. ~Napoleon It has become something of a truism to say that China will rise to a position of global dominance in the twenty-first century. All the evidence seems to support the thesis and we are flooded with the most fantastic figures charting the rise. Harvard political scientist Graham Allison treats us to a selection of these in his recent book Destined for War. He tells us that China’s GDP was less than $300 billion in 1980, a figure that had risen to $11 trillion by 2015. The country’s total trade with the outside world came to just $40 billion in 1980, but in 2015 it was $4 trillion—a hundredfold increase. Allison has plenty more shockers up his sleeve: “For every two-year period since 2008, the increment of growth in China’s GDP has been larger than the entire economy of India. Even at its lower growth in 2015, China’s economy created a Greece every sixteen weeks and an Israel …

Eastern Europe’s Emigration Crisis

In recent years, most of the debate around the global migration of people has focused on the movement into developed countries and the political battles that ensue. Most famously, Trump has overturned the wisdom of the American political establishment by saying the unsayable on immigration. Politicians from Riga to Rome have won votes (and office) by exploiting similar anxieties. But we seldom talk about the places which, year after year, see more people leave than arrive, and the consequences of countries saying goodbye to some of their best and brightest—often for good. Nowhere is this concern more pressing than in Eastern Europe. According to the UN, of all the countries that are expected to shrink the most in the coming decades, the top 10 are all in the eastern half of the continent, and seven of those are in the European Union. One cause for concern among many of these countries is the EU’s freedom of movement, one of the four “fundamental freedoms” of goods, capital, services, and people that bind the 28. Although most …

The Impressive Record of Theresa May

It’s usually difficult to describe the lasting legacy of a British Prime Minister in one word. For many, Theresa May (2016­­–19) seems to be the exception: failure. She inherited a small Conservative Party majority in the House of Commons and was under no political or constitutional pressure to hold a general election until 2020, but she called one nevertheless in 2017 and ended up losing that majority, forcing her to govern in coalition with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party for the remaining two years of her premiership. Her first attempt to get the House of Commons to approve the Withdrawal Agreement her Government had negotiated with the European Union was rejected by 432 MPs, the largest defeat of any British government in history. She attempted twice more to get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed and failed on both occasions, thus making her the self-styled “Brexit Prime Minister” who failed to deliver Brexit. Notwithstanding all this, she was a Prime Minister who presided over several successes which shouldn’t be overlooked. The Economy Just a month …

Indonesia’s Unlikely Democracy Remains Resilient

Indonesians refer to election day as Pesta Demokrasi—which translates to “Democracy Festival.” And it’s easy to see why. On April 17, about 156-million eligible Indonesians cast their votes forpresident at 809,500 polling stations strewn across 17,000 islands. Coinciding with the world’s largest direct presidential election were parliamentary and local legislative elections, with more than 20,000 seats contested by more than 245,000 candidates. Overseeing the entire process were around 6-million election workers—a force larger than the entire population of neighboring Singapore. As CNN reported, “ensuring this mega-poll in the world’s third largest democracy would go off without a hitch was a logistical feat, with election workers traveling by boat to remote islands, scaling mountains to reach hill-top villages and trekking through jungles—sometimes on horses—to bring ballot boxes within range of every voter.” All in all, April’s election was billed as “the most complicated single-day elections in global history.” It was also deadly—though not in the way you might expect. An estimated 139 election workers and police officers reportedly died from exhaustion due to the sheer scale …

François Furet: A Man For Our Season

Of all the many and varied compliments that can fairly be paid to Anglo-Saxon liberalism, modesty is certainly not among them. Since the Whig heyday in the first half of the nineteenth century, English-speaking liberals have claimed to have the solutions to everything from industrial relations to the prevention of war, all the while arguing that their doctrine is thoroughly undogmatic. And yet before one accuses liberalism and its adherents of arrogance, it is important to note that liberal policymakers, movements, and statesmen have been hugely successful in a wide array of endeavours, and played a pivotal role in fashioning the current world order. In recent years, however, especially since the American and British electoral shocks of 2016, it has become commonplace among the commentariat to announce that liberalism’s death agonies have begun—on the Left this has led to a celebration of the passing of corrupt and oppressive neoliberalism, and on the Right to the claim that unnatural and oppressive globalism’s deserved destruction is imminent. Nonetheless, given the length of time in which the West …

How Progressivism Enabled the Rise of the Populist Right

Right-wing populists have won an unprecedented 57 seats in elections to the European Union’s Parliament, up from 30 in 2014. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz won a majority of 52 percent. In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s Lega topped the poll at 30 percent, in Britain, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party won, while in France, Marine Le Pen pipped Emmanuel Macron 23 percent to 22 percent. While not quite the populist surge some feared, right-populist momentum continues. Meanwhile, the mainstream Social Democrats and Christian Democrats saw their combined total drop below a majority for the first time, from 56 percent in 2014 to 44 percent as Green and Liberal alternatives gained.  What few have noticed is that these results, especially in Western Europe, reflect a continuing blowback against the excesses of the post-1960s liberal-left. They also reveal how the mainstream has adapted to the populist challenge by tightening immigration, which has reduced the appeal of national populism in many northern and western European countries since its 2015-16 peak. This adjustment by the main parties has alienated some left-liberals, …

The Real Ballot Question in South Africa: How to Keep the Country from Falling Apart

South Africa’s sixth election since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1994 takes place on May 8. It has been 25 years since the country cast off the moral abomination of apartheid. But the noble and worthy dreams that took flight in the era of Nelson Mandela have been crushed by reality. Indeed, the dreadful irony is that Afrikaner nationalists’ dire predictions about majority rule seem to have come true. The country is in a parlous state: A recent Bloomberg report found that on a wide range of indicators, South Africa has done worse over the last five years than any other country in the world save those in a state of war. Corruption is rampant at every level, starting with the police. The power cuts that began in 2007 have gotten steadily worse. And although the government has managed to keep the lights on for the election campaign, the most optimistic forecast is another five years of intermittent supply. This in a country that, in 1994, had an oversupply of electricity at some of …

The Iraq War Was Not About Oil

Why did the U.S.-led coalition attack Iraq in 2003? Sixteen years after George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, the answer seems obvious to some: oil of course! When war was waged, this was the widespread view in Jordan (71 percent), Morocco (63 percent), Pakistan (54 percent), Turkey (64 percent), Germany (60 percent) and France (58 percent). After all, the U.S. was the largest oil-consuming nation and Iraq had the second-largest oil reserves in the world. These suspicions are strengthened when we consider how the White House was being run by retired oil executives—Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Bush himself. However, closer examination suggests these factors were a coincidence rather than a conspiracy. The Iraq War was not fought for oil. Big Oil, Sanctions and Saddam American oil companies didn’t want to topple Saddam Hussein; they wanted to trade with him. They were prevented from doing so, not by the regime but by the U.S.’s full support for the U.N.’s oil embargo that was imposed on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. In 1997, Conoco’s CEO …