To make policy is to think about the future – usually trying to shape it for the better. In policy, as much as any part of our lives, our thinking is strongly influenced by our perception of time, yet paradoxically this perception of time is usually unconscious and unquestioned.1 Policy experts and decision-makers are futures thinkers whether they realise it or not. Yet like all humans, they tend to rely largely on a set of familiar modes of thinking when it comes to preparing for the future – modes of thinking that are instinctive, intuitive or institutionalised.
It has become commonplace to describe the relationship between China and Russia as ‘a marriage of convenience’, in particular in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, this popular metaphor hides very different – even contradictory – interpretations of the nature and future of the relationship. Perhaps depending on one’s take on arranged marriages, the deepening relationship between these two states is seen as ‘stable and successful’ and ‘durable’, or on the contrary, as a ‘mere’ convenient arrangement doomed to be a temporary solution. It seems that fuzzy and often misunderstood marriage allegories bring more confusion than clarity to understanding and explaining complex relations between states. Shared norms and worldview would certainly indicate a steady and long-term arrangement whatever the marriage metaphor used.
Long gone are the days when Eastern Europe was Russia’s exclusive backyard. The last decade has witnessed the rapid expansion of political and economic ties between powers from the Middle East and Asia and East European states.
The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be not just a test for healthcare systems around the world, but an international contest for which country has the best political system.
The term ‘smart city’ relates to the use of technology to improve urban infrastructure and services, from energy grids to systems for transport/mobility and parking, and includes water treatment, waste management and security aspects, among others. China has made the smart city part of its national development strategy: the concept was endorsed by President Xi Jinping at a national urbanisation convention in 2015, and later explicitly mentioned in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), adopted in March 2016.
The Arctic is again becoming a region of strategic focus. For three decades after the Cold War, when the region was at the centre of great power competition, successful cooperation transformed the Arctic into a ‘low tension’ zone and consolidated the perception of ‘Arctic exceptionalism’, the sense that the region is uniquely cooperative and immune from broader geopolitical tensions. For the eight Arctic states that comprise the Arctic Council – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the US – there has been hope that regional dynamics can be insulated from global geopolitical shifts.