The President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, officially announced that a referendum for the independence of his region from Spain would be held on October 1. This is the umpteenth phase of the duel between Madrid, representing the central Spanish government, and Barcelona, the capital of a very rich region – producing 20% of the whole national GDP – undoubtedly more projected and linked, by an economic point of view, to other European areas than to the country to which it belongs.
The German regional elections held in North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland Länder (the last tests before the major federal ballot of next September) confirmed the authority of Chancellor Angela Merkel over her party. The local results, moreover, were bearers of good omens for the CDU/CSU’s national victory and a severe setback for Martin Schulz’s party, the SPD.
The Front National gained unprecedented momentum in the run-up to the elections, thanks to populist victories in other countries. But certain fundamental elements in the far-right’s stance precluded a victory in France.
With heightened tensions in East Asia and the ascent of China as an economic power, it should not be surprising that Asia is experiencing an arms race. The big question is how will it affect the balance of the region.
The strategic flexibility found in China goes back to ancient times. A fundamental element of this approach is the projection of China’s cultural merits, what today is known as soft power.
The Korean crisis will not be eased by setting out the usual diplomatic means. States, international institutions, non-governmental bodies and public opinion have lost the ability to deal with dictatorships based upon an ideology.
The Asian pivot of late 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, determined by the rise of China and the fight against terrorism, led Washington to deal with other issues, giving to South America a brand new status. After decades of strategic dependence on the United States, therefore, this part of the world could move toward new spheres of power.
Now that North Korea has a nuclear weapon as insurance policy against regime change or external political pressure, the US and South Korea are in a bind. China is key to reigning in the North, but does it have the political will?
Today more than ever, trade and geopolitics are intertwined. The inclusion of countries in already existing military alliances or in simple economic unions – widening areas and markets free of custom duties – can have severe effects on political frameworks and alter global stability.
China recognizes that it is in need of judicial reforms. But the method by which this is achieved must balance the seeming contradictions of an increasingly free-market society guided by one-party rule.
The Socialist Party primaries in France pose a dilemma. (As we go to press, the run-off has yet to take place.)
As protectionists gain the upper hand in the developed world, China’s Xi Jinping is coming to be seen as a champion of free trade. With the US retreating, Beijing
is poised to step into the vacuum created, even to the point of replacing Uncle Sam with their own version.
The possible premature end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed last year, should sound the death knell of American preeminence in Asia. But since influence would automatically pass to China, it would also raise some strategic issues whose solution is far from being adequately handled by Beijing. Should Trump pull the United States out of the Treaty right after having taken office, the Communist leadership would be left alone in the daunting task of sorting the two sides of the Pacific out of a period of uncertainty.
Tensions between China and Donald Trump flared up after the President-elect took an unprecedented phone call from Taiwan’s leader. Such slights could seriously damage an important bilateral relationship.
Throughout history Russia’s lack of natural barriers have obliged it to seek out “strategic depth.” This has meant that it needs to have friendly nations on its borders. Better still would be to have client states that carry out Moscow’s bidding. When that can’t be achieved, and Russia feels that there is a hostile entity on its border, then a curtain of fire can always be created to keep enemies skittish of scorched earth at bay.
China has several reasons to be concerned about Trump. He has threatened a trade war, and even if he doesn’t follow through on his threats, Trump represents forces that could eventually contaminate the Chinese.
A ghost is haunting the world. Throughout many democratic systems based upon the representative model, one can easily find worrying signs of the establishment of its degenerate form: direct democracy. Since the beginning of this century an unfortunate combination of global shocks and internal crises of governance have exacerbated the latent conflicts already existing in developed societies. As a result, there has been understandable anger and/or lack of confidence vis-à-vis the political class.
As China deals with epochal changes, it is also preparing for a succession in which the next generation of leaders will determine the future of the country for the rest of the century. How will Xi Jiping manage the transition?
The rise of a steady and reliable power acting in the convergence zone between Europe, Africa and Asia should have been welcomed as a beneficial contribution to the stabilization of an area in which the conflicts of the last 70 years impeded economic and social progress.
The Chinese government seems to be committed to lowering greenhouse gases. Its “smart city” policy hopes to incorporate technological advances that will not only keep the environment clean, but also give their industries an edge.
The geopolitics of civil aviation is shifting rapidly. Countries are forced to sacrifice long-subsidized national carriers in the face of free-market forces that are obliging airlines to unite and create scales of economy that can compete with new low-cost players.
Brexit is one of those cases in which politics and money diverge completely and branch off, taking two very different paths. Contrary to all expectations, none of the catastrophic effects on the London Stock Exchange, derived from the choice of leaving the EU, materialized, except for the fall of the pound (highly predictable).
An “end of empire” feel is floating upon the Elysée Palace in Paris. As time goes by, the last months of François Hollande’s presidential term are revealing themselves as an immense waste of time, skills, and missed opportunities: the current “chienlit” (a pun, meaning both “dog bed” and “shit in the bed,” used to describe social havoc), which spread throughout the public services with forceful actions aimed at severing the fuel distribution by blocking access to oil refineries, massive strikes – especially in rail transport – and continuous popular demonstrations and protests that always end up in acts of vandalism, shows how the power has weakened. Still, the French crisis, coupled with the Islamist terrorism emergency (and which, apart from the economic aspect, involves general issues such as national identity, immigration and the relationship with the European Union) should be correctly interpreted.
Unfortunately, in order to destroy an enemy, human beings have learned that it is not always enough to destroy functional structures. Getting rid of cultural heritage is also an effective weapon for subjugating another nation.
Today more than ever, controlling the media implies an increased power over the society.
In an attempt to support the European economy, affected by high unemployment and an inflation rate very close to, if not, zero, in the past months the ECB has cut its main refinancing rate to 0% and launched a large asset purchasing program, amounting to €80 billion per month – the so-called quantitative easing, or QE.
The current Chinese president is progressively consolidating power. A backlash within the Communist Party is inevitable, and observers are still debating what this means for the future of Chinese society.
The results of the German regional elections – held on March 13 – reflect the typical
“syndrome” of a mild federal state system.
The ongoing civil war in Libya was a direct result of European intervention. Now the mess across the Mediterranean risks further damaging the already fragile European project.
If we were to describe what kind of feeling the presidents of some of the world’s major central banks are evoking with their reasons for the mediocre economic showing, it would be deep dismay.
The world’s markets watch China through statistics of growth, production and consumption. And yet, underlying the economy is a very particular mindset that developed over thousands of years and has recently faced revolutionary change.
Beijing has always insisted that Taiwan is inseparable from mainland China. But for decades the Taiwanese have been under the protective wing of the United States.
As communist China’s power increases, Taipei is being pressed into a decision.
The price of crude oil reached the critical level of $30 per barrel in mid-January, confirming the declining trend of the last years.
As China’s economic strength has grown, its government has cautiously eased its money toward full convertibility. The recent addition of the yuan to the IMF currency basket will have many ramifications, especially in China.
China and its neighbors have been at odds over the sovereignty of many islands in the South China Sea. In reality the issue reflects China’s attempt to assert itself
in the face of American hegemony in the Pacific.
China has long been averse to any foreign military engagements that are not directly related to their security. Now with Russia having entered the Syrian
fray, Beijing is reassessing its role in international interventions.
As its growth slows down and its stock market faces unprecedented corrections, China is at a watershed.
The policies that drove its economic resurgence are no longer sustainable. The new direction, however, must take into account some common misunderstandings.
East Asian communism was always different from the European variety. One of the reasons for this has to do with their millennial tradition of government. Over time the Asians have proved themselves to be more flexible and less ideological.
Macao is more than just China’s version of Las Vegas. It represents the Communist government’s first flirtation with the Western capitalist system. As such, its fate may be seen as a bellwether for China’s future.