Does the ‘West’ Exist?

Image: U.S Department of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 20 July 2014.

In September, the NATO allies will meet at the summit to discuss issues ranging from the end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan to the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank.

The agenda and areas of consensus will mostly be prepared by national officials and the NATO staff well in advance of the meeting. Most likely not on the agenda, however, is a philosophical but critical question that hangs over the alliance: does the ‘West’ still exist? » More

The Geopolitics of Culture: Five Substrates

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This article was originally published June 24 2014 by the Harvard International Review (HIR).

Culture has a salient geopolitical relevance in a world that defines itself by much more than diplomatic exchanges and inter-state relations. This is primarily because of the deeply visceral and emotional connotations associated with identity issues. This has been the case throughout history, as exchanges have taken place between people of different cultures for millennia, but today they are marked by unprecedented intensity and scope of relations. This offers great opportunities on a number of levels but also has the potential to initiate tension or conflict when combined with injustice, inequalities and insecurities. » More

‘House of Cards’ and the Depiction of America’s China

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This article was originally published July 1 2014 by CSI Newcastle, a blog run by E-International Relations (E-IR).

In response to the second season of the US remake of House of Cards, a flurry of articles appeared in various outlets pondering the accuracy of China’s portrayal. This includes discussion on how the show indicates the role ofChinese soft power, is an accurate portrayal of domestic US politics, how the show deals with issues of race and whether or not it represents an accurate portrayal of China and issues in the Asia-Pacific. The writers, praised for “doing their homework” by one outlet, met with numerous China specialists including Xiaobo Lu of Columbia University who commented that “overall the writers were successful in putting in the China
storyline with a mix of sensational fiction and possible reality”. » More

The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) – a Design without Builders

Tobin Jones/Flickr

Speaking honestly and forthrightly is often frowned upon in regional politics. Being too explicit or realistic, for example, is often seen as ‘unhelpful’ or, even worse, as sabotaging the ‘art of the possible’. Being an Idealist, in contrast, is synonymous with being progressive and enlightened. A common symptom of political idealism, especially over the last twenty-five years, has been to create an organization or initiative and then worry about defining its everyday purpose, form and function at a later point in time. “Build or create it and they will come” isn’t an unfair way to describe this approach. Take the African Union’s African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), for example. In theory, it is a regional mechanism designed to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts in Africa. In truth, it remains nothing more than a construction site. The fifty-four member-states of the AU, whose headquarters continues to be largely financed by the European Union, have not really taken ownership of the ‘site’. Nor have they fleshed out one of the APSA’s main elements – the African Standby Force (ASF). Yes, the truth may be ugly and in ‘bad taste,’ but the reality today is that the APSA is only being taken seriously by those who make their living from it. » More

The Modi Moment for China and India?

Indian Prime Minister Modi gives a speech, courtesy of Narendra Modi/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by Harvard International Review.

When former Indian National Congress (INC) Minister of State Jairam Ramesh coined the term ‘Chindia’ he envisaged a relationship between China and India that was driven by mutually beneficial trade rather than conflict. Today it seems China and India are tipped to become the leading superpowers of the twenty-first century, driving forward the international economy and maintaining peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

Both among the fastest growing economies, China and India are the two most populous countries in the world with a great deal of untapped trade potential. Beijing and New Delhi recognize this and will harness it under under Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi’s leadership. Whether the Modi moment becomes the ‘Nixon moment’ for Sino-Indian relations rests heavily on the level of cultural engagement between the two countries. » More

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