With Thailand posting a 17-year record drop in exports for the first quarter of 2009, and the economy shrinking by 7.1 percent as a consequence, the global downturn is clearly causing severe problems for some one-time stellar performers. Like its Tiger Economy counterparts, Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand’s exports account for a majority of the country’s economic activity — more than 60 percent in Thailand’s case. Ultimately, these countries depend heavily on Western consumers buying the products they make, or the ones they make components for, depending on the particular industry and local position in the globalized manufacturing chain. Given their […]

Protectionism Watch: East vs. West

Alex Evans, writing at Global Dashboard, flags the declines in net private capital flows to emerging markets as a form of hidden protectionism: These are precipitous declines — and the reason that theyconstitute protectionism is because developed country policymakers havebeen putting pressure on their banks to curtail to poorer countries,which are seen as riskier investments. Meanwhile, Le Monde flags the rising “Buy Chinese” sentiment in China, as domestic firms vie with foreign competitors for economic stimulus contracts: At the same time that foreign groups counted on the significant infrastructure spending anticipated in the government’s stimulus plan, a dozen state agencies […]

Chinese and Russian leaders meet frequently, but last week was special. President Hu Jintao of China and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia conferred three times over the course of four days — at the June 15-16 Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Yekaterinburg, then later on June 16 at the first-ever heads-of-state meeting of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and again afterwards when Hu made a state visit to Moscow from June 16-18. Hu’s visit helped mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing. It coincided with the signing of over 40 […]

China’s rapid rise as a global economic power was brought into sharp relief during the March 2009 G-20 finance ministers meeting when, for the first time, pundits speaking about the event used the label “G-2” to signal that the world — economically speaking — now had two contending powers: China and the United States. China’s rise has, in turn, sparked enormous interest in its development model and the contrast that presents to much of the “Washington Consensus” on development policy. At the same time, the Chinese have sharply increased their foreign assistance, most visibly in Sub-Saharan Africa, after a lull […]

China’s global priorities might not match up that well with those of your average American policymaker. But they do match up quite well with President Obama’s agenda. That’s the sense I got after spending last week in Shanghai with a bevy of China’s top foreign affairs academics. Although the workshop I attended was focused on U.S.-Chinese relations, there was no shortage of side conversation on the post-election meltdown unfolding in Iran. And nothing I heard in terms of the Chinese sense of priorities bore any resemblance to what you see these days in American newspaper headlines. As during the Cold […]

More on IR in Sports

Picking up on my “sports is politics by another means” post from yesterday, Michael Wilkerson, over at FP’s Passport blog, put the call out to readers for more examples. Commenter Chembai points out a couple I missed, including China’s Ping Pong diplomacy and the Beijing Olympics. The boycotted 1980 Moscow games are in the latter category as well, characterized as “one big political statement.” Not really match-ups in the way I was thinking. The Ping Pong diplomacy, too, escaped my memory, because I was thinking more along the lines of confrontation. The brilliance of the Ping Pong diplomacy of course […]

It has been a rough go for the dollar of late. The global financial crisis coupled with concerns about soaring U.S. deficits have caused several of the world’s major holders of American debt to question the greenback’s continued role as the leading international reserve currency. Roughly one-third of the U.S. Treasury debt held by foreign countries lies in the BRIC economies — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — who met in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Tuesday for the group’s first full-format summit. Ultimately, the meeting did not result in what some had speculated: a specific call for a shift away from […]

President Barack Obama came into office ready to talk, and on many fronts he has already made good on his promise. He has directly addressed the Iranian people and opened channels to the government in Tehran. His address last week to the wider Muslim world was widely hailed as a success. And he exchanged a smiling handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Ch├ívez in April. Yet, apparently some situations demand a harder line. At the moment, one such situation is a North Korea poised to go nuclear. The item has thrust itself to the top of the president’s already overflowing agenda. […]

Twenty Years On, Tiananmen Still Commands Global Attention

Commemorations of the 20th anniversary of China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square today produced images ranging from the momentous to the surreal. In Beijing, plain clothes security officials sparred with reporters in a darkly comical umbrella dance at Tiananmen Square, where police outnumbered tourists. In Hong Kong, organizers estimated that 150,000 people turned out for a candlelit vigil in Victoria Park. International discourse on the anniversary reached a fever pitch over the last week, with hardly a pundit on the planet — outside China, that is — silent on the subject. That China’s democratic credentials or lack thereof […]

In April, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort sailed from Virginia with 900 doctors, nurses, engineers and civilian volunteers aboard. Comfort’s mission: to deliver humanitarian aid to seven Latin American countries over a four-month period, “building relations with many countries, and strengthening already-strong bonds,” in the words of mission commander Bob Lineberry, a Navy captain. In the first two months of their tour, Comfort’s staff treated 29,000 patients, including performing more than 500 surgeries. They also helped rebuild hospitals and conducted medical training with local health professionals. Operation Continuing Promise is aimed at reinforcing existing U.S. ties with Antigua, Colombia, […]

Hummer Goes Chinese

Despite being a lifelong camper, a one-time vegetarian and a dedicated, if lazy, supporter of environmental causes, I’ve also always been a GM man. (With the exception of the ’72 Dodge Dart that I owned for the three weeks it took me to find my beloved ’81 Oldsmobile Delta 88, nicknamed “The Penthouse.”) So obviously, the recent news has been tough. Still, I don’t think anything could be more emblematic of the shift in global geopolitics than Hummer going Chinese. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Hummer fan. In fact, the only thing I find more ridiculous than a […]

Pakistan’s Priority Problem

U.S. coverage of Pakistan’s spotty effort to battle extremists is understandably U.S.-centric. So we hear a lot about what Islamabad should do to contain the FATA-based Taliban who are also feeding the Afghan insurgency. Since last November’s Mumbai attacks and the subsequent unveiling of the Obama administration’s regional strategy, there’s been a bit more attention paid to India’s concerns. But what doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves is China’s concerns about Uighur separatist terrorist groups, and Iran’s concerns about Baloch separatist terrorist groups, both also using Pakistani territory as a safe haven (both via John McCreary). In other […]

South Korea’s entry last week into the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in response to a North Korean nuclear weapon test represented a long-sought objective of PSI proponents. For years, the Republic of Korea (ROK) government had delayed joining the program due to fears about how North Korea might respond. It took Pyongyang’s May 25 test detonation of a nuclear device to prompt the South Korean government to commit to membership. The PSI is a voluntary coalition of national governments that agree to collaborate against the illicit transfer of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their means of delivery (which in […]

Projecting Intentions in International Relations

As an addendum to last week’s post on the difficulties in gauging the intentions of other states, I found myself thinking over the weekend that President Barack Obama’s public diplomacy campaign towards the Muslim world is an illustration of how it is sometimes just as difficult to project one’s own intentions to other states. That difficulty obviously grows out of — and subsequently feeds off of — any divergence between strategic communcation on the one hand, and the reality of national policy as experienced by policy actors and citizens abroad on the other. Not only that, though, some of the […]

Last week’s Economist carried a feature on a recent wave of farmland purchases in poorer parts of the world. The buyers? Cash-rich emerging markets and Arab oil states looking to insure themselves against future food shortages. And if you think that’s just a reaction to last year’s stunning spike in prices, think again. The new trend speaks to the impact global warming will have on where food will be produced in abundance in coming decades. In terms of global grain production, which is what this investment frenzy is all about, the world is decidedly unflat. In fact, four major regions […]