The US–China trade dispute is on-again, off-again. While many are stressing the rights and wrongs of reigning in Chinese trade policies, there is little open contemplation of why China adopted such practices in the first place and what that might suggest about development prospects under existing global trade rules.
There has been a torrent of whining about the Trump–Kim summit. Critics are calling it little more than a photo opportunity for a dictator, and claim that nothing was agreed while North Korea’s horrific human rights abuses were overlooked. Sceptics claim that the agreement is the same as previous agreements between the United States and North Korea, that Kim will never change and North Korea will never denuclearise, and that stopping US–ROK war games will reduce US military readiness in the event of conflict.
The negotiation over the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that concluded in March 2018 was perhaps the first occasion for Japan to take a distinctive initiative in international trade talks. After the United States withdrew from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP 12) in January 2017, three conditions enabled Japan to play a more active role.
Many in the West want China’s system of governance to be ‘more like theirs’. Whether the Chinese polity would be easier to deal with, more reliable or stable, if it were somehow transformed into some form of representative and democratic government at this moment is a question that is rarely asked. China’s system of government is rooted in its revolutionary past and while it has changed a great deal since reform and opening up forty years ago, it remains a one-party state of which the Chinese Communist Party has unquestionable control. That is the state which the United States and other democracies recognised as the legitimate government of China after US President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972.
ASEAN countries are no strangers to conflict and violence. As a region comprising diverse nation-states, Southeast Asia has experienced a number of inter- and intra-state conflicts. Political stability in the region has improved over the last decade, especially due to a decline in inter-state disputes. But intra-state disputes in the form of ethnic conflicts, violence against minorities and violent extremism — including terrorism — are gaining ground.
For the 20 years after British colonial rule in India ended, the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress party engineered a remarkable state of democratic stability through the distribution of patronage to its political supporters. But within a few years of Nehru’s death in 1964, India’s party system descended into crisis. Indira Gandhi sought to reassert control by refashioning herself as a populist, ‘going once more direct to the people’. She continued to centralise power, and in 1975 she suspended democracy itself.
There is no shortage of sceptics of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Indeed, stories about the BRI often include the evocation of debt ‘traps’ and ‘vassal states’. While some concerns merit consideration, popular criticisms of the BRI tend to be built upon incomplete and distorted stereotypes, which only draws attention away from the actual shortcomings of the BRI that need to be addressed.
The world’s two largest economies are skirmishing around the brink of a global trade war. This dangerous development puts at risk the international trading system that underpins prosperity in the global economy.
The rising trade tensions of recent months have grabbed the headlines — and rightly so. But what you don’t often hear about is how well the global trading system has performed over the years. You could argue that global trade governance has actually been the quietest success story of the post-war era. It’s important to remember what we could stand to lose if the current tensions lead to an unmanageable escalation of tit-for-tat trade policy actions.
On 24 May 2018, US President Donald Trump called off the planned 12 June Singapore summit with Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea due to Pyongyang’s perceived hostility. Having invested much political and reputational capital on rapprochement with North Korea, and with the Kim regime still privately in favour of the earlier planned summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim reached out to each other.