Thursday, September 01, 2016

You're Doing It Wrong

Dan Southerland on why the Russia - China relationship will only go so far:
The Soviet delegation to China was led by Yuri G. Lyashko, mayor of the Siberian city of Blagoveshchensk, who was on his second trip to China. Lyashko was looking among other things for help in developing Siberia, one of the world’s least-developed frontier regions. But as we traveled for 15 hours by bus and train from Heihe to Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province, the mayor quickly made clear to me through an interpreter that he was ambivalent about dealings with China. 
I remarked to Lyashko that thinly populated Siberia needed additional labor in order to develop, and I joked that China could put 100,000 farmers to work for him on undeveloped land in Siberia within a matter of weeks. Lyashko failed to respond. But his awkward expression said it all: For him this was no joking matter. It was clear that the Soviets would have to set limits on how many Chinese came in. 
In the nearly three decades since that moment near the frozen border, Russia’s relations with China have improved to the point where a few analysts now speak of a growing Chinese-Russian “strategic alliance.” But most would probably say that this description goes too far.

Rudroneel Ghosh on how the Bishkek bombing may be a case of the chickens coming home to roost:
But security cooperation inherently implies that two or more countries identify a common enemy. And this is where Beijing’s foreign policy approach starts faltering. For today economic cooperation alone isn’t sufficient to secure foreign policy interests. It needs to be supplemented by security cooperation. And when the two issues mingle, China can’t afford to not make qualitative changes in its foreign approach to align economics and security. 
In fact, the success of China’s grand ‘One Belt, One Road’ project of transnational connectivity rests on this. Beijing’s plans of building roads, railways and other supporting infrastructure to connect China to Europe via Central and South Asia and boost regional trade are certainly praiseworthy. However, for the plans to fructify Beijing needs a peaceful regional environment. And as the Bishkek attack shows, transnational terrorism can strike even when there are no direct threats and provocations. 
This is precisely why the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a key link in the Belt-Road initiative – can only be actualised if Beijing tweaks its strategic neutrality and leans on Islamabad to crack down on terror groups operating from its soil. While China may be right in thinking that economic development will transform Pakistan and neutralise extremism in the long run, it must also recognise that there are extremist forces at work that are keen on subverting such efforts for ideological reasons.

Edward Cavanough on consequencs of the coming power vacuum in Uzbekistan:
First, who will possibly take Karimov’s place? The new leader would be required to quickly diffuse the tensions likely to emerge from the diverse set of ethnic, religious and political groupings within the country. Many of these have never wielded political influence, and will naturally be seeking an opportunity to assert influence over the Uzbek regime. 
Second, if a power vacuum does emerge, can transition possibly be peaceful? Previous power struggles in the region have been violent. In Tajikistan, Civil War raged from 1993-1997, resulting in up to 50,000 deaths and the implementation of an even more repressive regime. 
Third, while Karimov has managed to assert secularism on the Uzbek population, the majority consider themselves Muslim. Their religion has been institutionally and legally stifled – as is the case across much of the region – further disenfranchising large sections of the population. The influence of fundamentalist non-state actors, such as ISIS, and al-Qaeda is, while not dominant, an observable problem in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. Whether or not these organisations can capitalise on the potential chaos of a leadership vacuum will determine their long-term influence in the region, and whether the West, Russia and China should be more concerned.

Finally, how Hawaii did something right in landing the planet's largest environmental conference. Chad Blair:
While many consider Levin the pioneer who brought the IUCN to Hawaii, significant politicking went into actually pulling it off. “I maybe threw the first seed,” Levin said. “But it was a lot of other people who made it happen.” 
Hawaii was announced as the host of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2014, an honor that had Aloha State politicians gushing with pride. They said the event would bring at least $50 million in tax revenues to the state as well as allow Hawaii to showcase its commitment to environmental sustainability and renewable energy to a global audience. 
“This is the first time the United States is hosting this important meeting of world leaders and it is an honor for Hawaii,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said at the time. 
“Hawaii is the perfect location for the United States to welcome global leaders to work towards solving some of the world’s greatest conservation and energy security challenges.” 
Schatz’s former boss, Neil Abercrombie, was governor when the IUCN made its announcement. He told Civil Beat this week that few people actually thought Hawaii stood a chance to host an international event with the stature of the IUCN World Conservation Congress. “At the time it was thought to be impossible,” Abercrombie said. “How could a state compete against nations? It had never been done before.”

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