Category : Foreign Relations

(NYT) Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia

When Scott Morrison became Australia’s prime minister three years ago, he insisted that the country could maintain close ties with China, its largest trading partner, while working with the United States, its main security ally.

“Australia doesn’t have to choose,” he said in one of his first foreign policy speeches.

On Thursday, Australia effectively chose. Following years of sharply deteriorating relations with Beijing, Australia announced a new defense agreement in which the United States and Britain would help it deploy nuclear-powered submarines, a major advance in Australian military strength.

With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot with the United States for generations to come — a “forever partnership,” in Mr. Morrison’s words. The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.

It’s a big strategic bet that America will prevail in its great-power competition with China and continue to be a dominant and stabilizing force in the Pacific even as the costs increase.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Bishops hit out at ‘criminalisation of Good Samaritan’ over Channel crossings

A multilateral approach, promoting safe routes and valuing human life and the “dignity of the vulnerable”, was needed, the bishops said.

Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham, said: “We agree with the home secretary that we need a better and more efficient asylum process, and we agree on wanting to stop human trafficking.

“But the answer is more designated safe routes. The situation in Afghanistan has demonstrated that it’s possible to identify the most vulnerable people, sort out the necessary paperwork and set up safe routes.

“In Afghanistan, we have seen the story, seen the horror. With a lot of the folk in Calais, we don’t know their stories. If we did, levels of sympathy and compassion would increase.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Travel

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–Identity Politics Goes Global: Multi-ethnic states from South Africa to Central Asia are starting to come apart

Identity wars and conflicts based on differences in ethnicity, culture, language or religion are, once ignited, the most powerful forces in human affairs. And these forces persist in nations of all levels of development. Having witnessed Brexit and heard calls for Catalan independence, we shouldn’t be surprised that African peoples also want to exit distant and dysfunctional multi-ethnic unions to control their own affairs.

Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon are ripping themselves apart across ethnic or confessional divides. Separatist movements among the Arab, Kurdish, Azeri and Balochi minorities haunt the slumbers of Iranian mullahs. From the western Balkans through Turkey and the Caucasus to the “stans” of Central Asia, ethnic and religious divides are worrying governments and challenging the status quo.

The revisionist nationalism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, India’s turn toward Hindu nationalism, and China’s increasingly xenophobic Han nationalism show that identity politics is returning to center stage even in large states. The eurocrats of Brussels are also struggling to contain populist nationalist opposition to European Union edicts. Many Americans wonder whether a common U.S. identity is strong enough to contain the forces that threaten to splinter the country permanently into hostile racial, religious and ideological camps.

Alongside the return of great power competition, the eruption of identity politics is the single most consequential political feature of our time. This fateful combination does not bode well.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General, Psychology

([London] Times) Joe Biden to declare end of combat operations in Iraq

The United States will today declare an end to combat operations in Iraq, asserting that the fight against Islamic State can be led by local forces.

The announcement will be part of a deal signed with Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is in Washington and will meet President Biden.

It will state formally that US combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq and the forces that remain will perform only training and advisory roles. Its aim is to help Kadhimi to argue that he is no longer beholden to western military interests, and that attacks by pro-Iran militias on US targets, often bases shared with Iraqi troops, are illegitimate.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces, Terrorism

(WSJ) The Christian Heart of Hong Kong Activism

Joseph Cheng, 71, used to be one of Hong Kong’s busiest activists: a familiar presence in the media and a leading figure in several pro-democracy organizations. After retiring in 2015, the former political-science professor planned to live out his remaining days in the city. But Mr. Cheng’s life—a microcosm of Hong Kong’s recent history—has been turned upside down.

Last year’s so-called national-security law reclassified much ordinary activism as a criminal offense. On April 10, two days after I spoke to Mr. Cheng, authorities handed down sentences for campaigners including the media tycoon Jimmy Lai (14 months in prison) and the “father of Hong Kong democracy,” Martin Lee (a suspended sentence). Since then, the arrests have continued and Mr. Lai’s newspaper Apple Daily has been shut down.

Fearing prosecution, Mr. Cheng and his wife moved to Canberra, Australia, in July 2020. “It’s a quiet life,” he tells me. “Sometimes it’s a little bit lonely.” Because of Covid, his family members in Hong Kong can’t visit. “You feel bad to see friends arrested, prosecuted, sentenced to prison. But I understand that there is very little I can do.”

Mr. Cheng was born in 1949 to Chinese parents who had fled the civil war. He has, in turn, held the British colonial government to account as a leading member of the pressure group Hong Kong Observers; campaigned for political reform under Chinese rule; and now finds himself in de facto exile. He is also a practicing Catholic, and his career is a reminder of the remarkably strong Christian influence on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Archbishop, Pope and Church of Scotland Moderator write to South Sudan’s leaders

When we last wrote to you at Christmas, we prayed that you might experience greater trust among yourselves and be more generous in service to your people. Since then, we have been glad to see some small progress. Sadly, your people continue to live in fear and uncertainty, and lack confidence that their nation can indeed deliver the ‘justice, liberty and prosperity’ celebrated in your national anthem. Much more needs to be done in South Sudan to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom, in which the dignity of all is respected and all are reconciled (cf 2 Corinthians, 5). This may require personal sacrifice from you as leaders – Christ’s own example of leadership shows this powerfully – and today we wish you to know that we stand alongside you as you look to the future and seek to discern afresh how best to serve all the people of South Sudan.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(AP) US left Afghan airfield at night, didn’t tell new commander

The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.

Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling air base Monday, providing a rare first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.

The U.S. announced Friday it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.

“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said.

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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(NYT front page) China’s Propaganda Goes Viral With Videos of Happy Uyghurs

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. But they did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said in his video. “We are very free now….”

Read it all (note please that the above is the title on the print edition).

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General

(WSJ) Adam O’Neal–Kazakhstan’s efforts at rehabilitation and reintegration put Europe to shame

“Kazakhstan made a very bold move by being the first country to repatriate large numbers of its nationals,” Chris Harnisch, a Trump State Department official who worked on the issue, said in an interview. “They were not dipping their toe in the water. They went all in.” The Kazakh government repatriated 607 citizens through a program called Operation Zhusan. Most were women (157) and children (413). Thirty-seven adult male fighters faced prosecution upon arrival. Another 32 women and 89 children returned themselves.

The Kazakh government sends women and children to rehabilitation centers, where they undergo a long process to help them reintegrate into society. Some return completely jaded, while others remain committed to ISIS: One woman tried to smuggle the group’s propaganda into Kazakhstan in a child’s toy.

“We are trying to bring them back to normal,” then-Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev told me earlier this year. “We would like to see them as ordinary people.” This created controversy domestically, but the government held firm.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Kazakhstan, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Women

(Washington Post) ‘It’s pretty marginal’: Experts say Biden’s vaccine waiver proposal unlikely to boost supply quickly

“There is no mRNA manufacturing capacity in the world — this is a new technology,” [Moderna CEO Stéphane] Bancel added. “You cannot go hire people who know how to make mRNA. Those people don’t exist. And then even if all those things were available, whoever wants to do mRNA vaccines will have to, you know, buy the machine, invent the manufacturing process, invent creation processes and ethical processes, and then they will have to go run a clinical trial, get the data, get the product approved and scale manufacturing. This doesn’t happen in six or 12 or 18 months.”

Several officials involved in the U.S. coronavirus response said they worried the decision would damage their relationship with the drug industry, noting the Biden administration is relying on it not just to boost vaccine supply but also to devise additional coronavirus treatments and vaccines, particularly given the risk of variants.

“We’re all counting on pharma to come up with vaccine booster shots, and what happens when we try to get to the front of the line?” said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly comment.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Global Hunger Hits Highest in Years as Pandemic Hurts Income

The world faced its worst hunger problem in at least five years in 2020 on the back of the coronavirus crisis, and the outlook remains grim again this year.

Some 155 million people across 55 countries — more than the population of Russia — suffered from issues ranging from a food crisis to famine, according to a report with data from more than a dozen agencies. That’s up 20 million from 2019, with economic shocks overtaking extreme weather as the No. 2 cause.

The worsening situation highlights how the pandemic has exacerbated food inequalities around the world, on top of extreme weather and political conflicts that are stifling access to key staples. Consumers are now also contending with rising food costs as rampant Chinese demand stretches global crop supplies.

“Covid-19 has been exacerbating fragilities,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies and resilience at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. “Its restrictions, for example, on the movement of goods and people, has resulted in widespread income losses, especially for those people who rely on informal work in urban households.”

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty

(NY Times front page) U.S. Built the Afghan Military Over 20 Years. Will It Last One More?

The Taliban attack on a police outpost at the edge of the city began at dusk, with the muted chatter of machine-gun fire and the thud of explosions. The men under attack radioed Capt. Mohammed Fawad Saleh at his headquarters, several miles away, desperate for help.

The police captain replied that he would send more men, along with one can of machine-gun ammunition — 200 rounds, not enough for even a minute of intensive fire.

“One can?” the voice on the other end of the radio responded, incredulously.

Ammunition shortages are just one of the serious and systemic issues plaguing soldiers and police officers who will soon have to defend Afghanistan — and themselves — without U.S. aircraft overhead or American troops on the ground.

“We’re holding the weight of the war,” Captain Saleh said as the attack unfolded in January. Yet one ammunition can was all he could spare.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

([London] Times) China’s President Xi unveils three new warships in warning to Taiwan

President Xi has presided over a rare public display of China’s growing naval strength by unveiling three new warships — one an amphibious helicopter carrier, hailed as the most advanced vessel in the nation’s fleet — amid growing concern that he is building a force capable of retaking Taiwan.

The carrier, named Hainan, is designed as an offensive platform from which to launch an amphibious or airborne assault and can transport up to 1,200 troops as well as dozens of helicopters and jump jets. The second vessel, the Dalian, is a guided-missile cruiser with stealth technology; the third is an upgraded Type 094A nuclear-powered submarine, the Changzheng-18, believed to be capable of carrying 12 JL-2 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The ceremony, in a military port in the southern city of Sanya, coincided with a warning from Wang Yi, the foreign minister, that the US would have to accept China’s rise if it wanted to co-exist peacefully. “Democracy is not Coca-Cola, with the US producing the syrup and the whole world has one single taste,” he said.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Taiwan

(PS) Kenneth Rogoff–The Dollar’s Fragile Hegemony

The mighty US dollar continues to reign supreme in global markets. But the greenback’s dominance may well be more fragile than it appears, because expected future changes in China’s exchange-rate regime are likely to trigger a significant shift in the international monetary order.

For many reasons, the Chinese authorities will probably someday stop pegging the renminbi to a basket of currencies, and shift to a modern inflation-targeting regime under which they allow the exchange rate to fluctuate much more freely, especially against the dollar. When that happens, expect most of Asia to follow China. In due time, the dollar, currently the anchor currency for roughly two-thirds of world GDP, could lose nearly half its weight.

Considering how much the United States relies on the dollar’s special status – or what then-French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing famously called America’s “exorbitant privilege” – to fund massive public and private borrowing, the impact of such a shift could be significant. Given that the US has been aggressively using deficit financing to combat the economic ravages of COVID-19, the sustainability of its debt might be called into question.

The long-standing argument for a more flexible Chinese currency is that China is simply too big to let its economy dance to the US Federal Reserve’s tune, even if Chinese capital controls provide some measure of insulation. China’s GDP (measured at international prices) surpassed that of the US back in 2014 and is still growing far faster than the US and Europe, making the case for greater exchange-rate flexibility increasingly compelling.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Currency Markets, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Taliban Believe The War’s Over And They Won

The Taliban’s swagger is unmistakable. From the recent bellicose speech of their deputy leader, boasting of “conquests,” to sneering references to the “foreign masters” of the “illegitimate” Kabul government, to the Taliban’s own website tally of “puppets” killed — Afghan soldiers — they are promoting a bold message:

We have already won the war.

And that belief, grounded in military and political reality, is shaping Afghanistan’s volatile present. On the eve of talks in Turkey next month over the country’s future, it is the elephant in the room: the half-acknowledged truth that the Taliban have the upper hand and are thus showing little outward interest in compromise, or of going along with the dominant American idea, power-sharing.

While the Taliban’s current rhetoric is also propaganda, the grim sense of Taliban supremacy is dictating the response of a desperate Afghan government and influencing Afghanistan’s anxious foreign interlocutors. It contributes to the abandonment of dozens of checkpoints and falling morale among the Afghan security forces, already hammered by a “not sustainable” casualty rate of perhaps 3,000 a month, a senior Western diplomat in Kabul said.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(War on the Rocks) Robert D. Blackwill+Philip Zelikow: Can The United States Prevent A War Over Taiwan?

If China’s window of advantage does shrink over time as the defense of Taiwan improves, what, then, is the right U.S. strategy in the meantime? If time is on the eventual side of those defending peace and freedom, our strategy is designed to buy more of it.

This option that we recommend supports the planning that we describe in the second approach, the status quo, in which the United States has contingency plans to share in the direct defense of Taiwan but will not commit in advance to do so. But in our view, that is not an adequate U.S. strategy to deter war. We believe the United States should, in addition, rehearse — at least with Japan and Taiwan — a parallel plan to challenge any Chinese denial of international access to Taiwan and prepare, including with pre-positioned U.S. supplies, including war reserve stocks, shipments of vitally needed supplies to help Taiwan defend itself.

The United States and its allies, like Japan, should plan to challenge a Chinese quarantine or siege of Taiwan enough to place the burden on China to decide whether to widen the conflict by attacking U.S. or allied forces that were endeavoring to deliver such supplies. If such plans exist now, they are not evident, either in exercises choreographed with allies, in pre-positioned supplies, or in the shipping capacity to carry them out. These plans would probably require significant changes in the character and deployment of U.S. and other allied forces. But these changes, oriented more to helping Taiwan defend itself and less reliant on a rapid build-up of U.S. striking power inside the first island chain, would not menace the People’s Republic of China as much as the strategy envisioned in the third approach.

In this fourth approach, if China did choose to widen the war, the United States and its allies would plan to defend themselves and continue to do what was possible to help Taiwan defend itself. But the United States would not assume that such a war needs to extend to the Chinese, Japanese, or American homelands.

Instead, in another revision to the second approach, the United States and its allies would credibly and visibly plan to react to the attack on their forces by breaking all financial relations with China, freezing or seizing Chinese assets, leading to a severe rupture of the world economy and a likely global financial crisis. Also, the United States and Japan would prepare, visibly and in advance, the massive remilitarization and mobilization measures that they, and perhaps others, would take as the logical consequence of the increased danger of general war. Some critics assert this already is U.S. strategy, but we have seen no such allied economic, political, and military plans on this scale, that would strengthen deterrence.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Taiwan

The Bishop of Worcester calls for targeted sanctions against those responsible for military coup in Myanmar

On 8th March 2021 the Bishop of Worcester received a written answer to a question on targeted sanctions against the Myanmar regime:

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. [HL13549]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is looking at a range of measures to ensure the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar are respected.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–Abraham’s Missing Child: Christians

The announcement that Israel would normalize ties with Muslim-majority Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates might have been the highlight of an otherwise dismal 2020. Yet these groundbreaking accords still lack one important child of Abraham. Do Near Eastern Christians have a seat at this table? If not, who can help get them there?

Years of international anxiety over the slow demise of Christianity in its ancient homeland hasn’t translated into action. The situation in old bastions like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is now catastrophic. Egypt, with the largest population of Jesus followers in the region, isn’t much better. That the region’s second most afflicted religious group—after the devastated Yazidis—has gained the least from a long-overdue peace is a painful irony not lost on its persecuted members.

Part of the problem is that the regional hostility being rolled back under the Abraham Accords was never a distinctly Christian problem. The centurylong animus between Muslims, the region’s largest group, and Jews, its oldest Abrahamic population and newest recipient of sovereignty, could only be rectified by Jews and Muslims. The relative lack of Christians in any the four Muslim countries that are part the Abraham Accords—Israel has as many as all of them combined—means that Christians simply haven’t been part of the discussion.

Another thorny problem is the imprisonment of the region’s most dynamic Christian communities in its other geopolitical axis: the resistance bloc controlled by Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(FT Magazine) How the race for renewable energy is reshaping global politics

Australia itself has long been a climate laggard and a major coal exporter, but as China and other big customers plan to cut their emissions, taking their business with them, that may be changing. Dozens of the world’s biggest economies have adopted targets for net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. And 189 countries have joined the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2C. In a race to curb climate change, countries are rushing to cut fossil fuels, boost clean energy — and transform their economies in the process.

But as the energy system changes, so will energy politics. For most of the past century, geopolitical power was intimately connected to fossil fuels. The fear of an oil embargo or a gas shortage was enough to forge alliances or start wars, and access to oil deposits conferred great wealth. In the world of clean energy, a new set of winners and losers will emerge. Some see it as a clean energy “space race”. Countries or regions that master clean technology, export green energy or import less fossil fuel stand to gain from the new system, while those that rely on exporting fossil fuels — such as the Middle East or Russia — could see their power decline.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the former president of Iceland and chair of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, says that the clean energy transition will birth a new type of politics. The shift is happening “faster, and in a more comprehensive way, than anyone expected”, he says. “As fossil fuels gradually go out of the energy system . . . the old geopolitical model of power centres that dominate relations between states also goes out the window. Gradually the power of those states that were big players in the world of the ­fossil-fuel economies, or big corporates like the oil companies, will fritter away.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Stewardship

(Reuters) U.S. ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and there must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture. The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated U.S. charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang and added: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Bloomberg Businessweek) An Economist’s Guide to the World in 2050

Who really won the Cold War? Maybe China.

In 1972, Cold War logic pushed President Richard Nixon into an unlikely alliance with Mao Zedong—bringing China back into the mainstream of the world economy. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union encouraged “end of history” hubris that blinded the West to the consequences of China’s rise.

Fast forward to 2020 and China has emerged as a major global power, its single-party rule and state-dominated economy the cause of alarm in foreign capitals—and pride in Beijing. By 2035, Bloomberg Economics forecasts, China will have overtaken the U.S. to become the world’s biggest economy and perhaps also its most powerful political actor.

China’s rise is just one part of a larger shift that’s already under way and looks set to accelerate in the decades ahead.

Bloomberg Economics has used a growth accounting framework—adding up the contributions of labor, capital and productivity—to forecast potential GDP through 2050 for 39 countries, from the U.S. to Ghana. We’ve used that data to map some of the key geographic and political shifts in store for the world economy.

The results suggest that a remarkable period of stability, stretching from the end of World War II through to the early 21st century, is coming to an end. The center of economic gravity is shifting from West to East, from advanced economies to emerging markets, from free markets to state controls and from established democracies to authoritarian and populist rulers. The transition is already upending global politics, economics and markets. This is just the beginning.

Much could happen to throw our projections off track. The Covid crisis is demonstrating how pandemics can reconfigure the global economic map. Wars, natural disasters and financial meltdowns can do the same. So could policy choices on globalization and climate change. Still, absent a crystal ball, forecasts of potential growth provide the most reliable basis for thinking about the long term.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(FT) Britain and EU poised to announce Christmas Eve Brexit deal

Britain and the EU were last night finalising a historic post-Brexit deal that will define their future trading relationship, reducing the risk of the UK crashing chaotically out of the European single market on January 1.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, is expected to confirm the deal early on Christmas Eve after a flurry of last-minute talks in Brussels, bringing an end to nine months of tense negotiations.

EU and UK officials worked through Wednesday night to finalise the legal text, which will preserve tariff-free trade in goods between the EU and UK as well as protect co-operation in other areas such as security.

People briefed on the talks said that the ongoing work included fine-tuning the details of agreements struck on Wednesday on EU fishing rights in UK waters. But officials on both sides said the terms of the post-Brexit relationship were essentially settled.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Noema Magazine) James Crabtree–China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization

But then came the interesting part. “Since the beginning of this year, I have said on many occasions that we must promote the formation of a new development pattern, in which domestic and international cycles are the mainstay, and the domestic and international dual cycles promote each other,” Xi said. To an outsider, this might seem unremarkable, cloaked as it is in the elliptical phraseology that often marks Chinese economic ideas. But the “dual circulation” strategy Xi outlined actually represents a radical new understanding of globalization and of China’s place within it.

More than just a buzzword, dual circulation describes the deeply pessimistic worldview that has settled over Beijing. Once China’s leaders saw opportunity in globalization. Now, they expect the U.S. and its allies to deny China the technology it needs to build “a modern socialist country” by mid-century, meaning a wealthy superpower fit to rival the U.S. Although likely to be less pugilistic, Beijing rightly believes an incoming Biden administration will also press forward with policies designed to stop advanced technologies finding their way into Beijing’s hands. Chinese thinking has long valorized self-reliance, dating back to ideas developed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong during the country’s civil war, which ended with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Now, Trump’s tariffs, as well as his campaigns against companies like Huawei and TikTok, have given new impetus to the modern form of self-reliance Xi dubs “internal” development.

Many experts have noted a changing Western consensus on China, as leaders in Washington abandoned the idea that economic modernization would inevitably lead to political liberalization in Beijing. But there has been a comparable shift in China’s internal conversation on the West too. Beginning with semiconductors but potentially expanding to all manner of other areas, China now expects it will have to develop technologically on its own. Xi’s new theory now sits at the heart of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which covers development from 2021 to 2025, and was unveiled in draft form in October. The result will accelerate China’s decoupling from the West, while also increasing the importance of trading links forged with other parts of the world — for instance, via Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative. Put more bluntly, while the world was distracted by the drama of the U.S. presidential election, Xi quietly unveiled an economic strategy fit for a new Cold War. Both for China and for globalization itself, the results are likely to be profound.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Church Times) Pandemic likely to increase slavery and trafficking, mission warns

The world must act now to prevent a surge in global slavery under the conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic, the International Justice Mission (IJM) has warned today, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Covid-19 is exacerbating poverty and the circumstances that cause people to fall into bonded labour and servitude, the IJM, a Christian anti-trafficking charity, has said. Furthermore, the lockdowns that many governments have imposed in an effort to control the virus have led to a marked increase in online sexual exploitation of children, as adults in the West who are restricted to their homes have spent more time on the internet, facilitating the abuse of children elsewhere.

Estimates from the World Bank suggest that 49 million extra people will be forced into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The IJM said that it had already observed people-traffickers trying to exploit this by offering false job offers or loans to entrap vulnerable people who had lost their income because of the virus.

The IJM’s principal adviser on modern slavery, Peter Williams, said that evidence suggested that certain vulnerabilities were key key, and that these — loss of income, family medical emergencies, isolation — were “characteristic of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on people in poverty”.

In the developing world, public institutions that were needed to combat trafficking and modern slavery — such as local police forces, social services, and the courts — were being put under unprecedented pressure by the pandemic, Mr Williams said.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(CNA) Cardinal Sarah says West must wake up to threat of Islamism after three killed at French Catholic church

Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah said Thursday that the West must wake up to the threat of Islamism after three people were killed at a French church by an attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The Guinean cardinal wrote on Twitter Oct. 29 that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.”

“It will not stop its war. Unfortunately, we Africans know this all too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote.

“The West, today France, must understand this. Let us pray.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Guinea, Italy, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Wired) The Russian Hackers Playing ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ With US Infrastructure

Over the last half a decade, Russian state-sponsored hackers have triggered blackouts in Ukraine, released history’s most destructive computer worm, and stolen and leaked emails from Democratic targets in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. In that same stretch, one particular group of Kremlin-controlled hackers has gained a reputation for a very different habit: walking right up to the edge of cybersabotage—sometimes with hands-on-the-switches access to US critical infrastructure—and stopping just short.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published an advisory warning that a group known as Berserk Bear—or alternately Energetic Bear, TEMP.Isotope, and Dragonfly—had carried out a broad hacking campaign against US state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies, as well aviation sector targets. The hackers breached the networks of at least two of those victims. The news of those intrusions, which was reported earlier last week by the news outlet Cyberscoop, presents the troubling but unconfirmed possibility that Russia may be laying the groundwork to disrupt the 2020 election with its access to election-adjacent local government IT systems.

In the context of Berserk Bear’s long history of US intrusions, though, it’s much harder to gauge the actual threat it poses. Since as early as 2012, cybersecurity researchers have been shocked to repeatedly find the group’s fingerprints deep inside infrastructure around the globe, from electric distribution utilities to nuclear power plants. Yet those researchers also say they’ve never seen Berserk Bear use that access to cause disruption. The group is a bit like Chekhov’s gun, hanging on the wall without being fired through all of Act I—and foreshadowing an ominous endgame at a critical moment for US democracy.

“What makes them unique is the fact that they have been so focused on infrastructure throughout their existence, whether it’s mining, oil, and natural gas in different countries or the grid,” says Vikram Thakur, a researcher at security firm Symantec who has tracked the group over several distinct hacking campaigns since 2013.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Soaring Prices, Rotting Crops: Coronavirus Triggers Global Food Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic hit the world at a time of plentiful harvests and ample food reserves. Yet a cascade of protectionist restrictions, transport disruptions and processing breakdowns has dislocated the global food supply and put the planet’s most vulnerable regions in particular peril.

“You can have a food crisis with lots of food. That’s the situation we’re in,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO.

Prices for staples such as rice and wheat have jumped in many cities, in part because of panic buying set off by export restrictions imposed by countries eager to ensure sufficient supplies at home. Trade disruptions and lockdowns are making it harder to move produce from farms to markets, processing plants and ports, leaving some food to rot in the fields.

At the same time, more people around the world are running short of money as economies contract and incomes shrivel or disappear. Currency devaluations in developing nations that depend on tourism or depreciating commodities like oil have compounded those problems, making imported food even less affordable.

“In the past, we have always dealt with either a demand-side crisis, or a supply-side crisis. But this is both—a supply and a demand crisis at the same time, and at a global level,” said Arif Husain, chief economist at the UN’s World Food Program. “This makes it unprecedented and uncharted.”

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty

(1 News NZ) China’s ambassador to Australia says calls for inquiry into Covid-19 origins are ‘dangerous’, could spark boycotts

China’s ambassador to Australia told a newspaper that the Australian government’s pursuit of an independent international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting the country, as well as sales of major exports including beef and wine.

Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review in an interview published today that Australia’s push for an inquiry was “dangerous” and predicted it would fail to gain traction among global leaders.

“Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” Cheng said.

Cheng did not accept that the virus had started in a “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, saying the scientific jury was still out on its origins.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine

(Express) How Christian persecution overseas is set to become UK priority

A religious literacy programme will be rolled out to ensure that civil servants and diplomats are no longer ignorant of the dire threats facing Christians around the world.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a leading Conservative campaigner for religious liberty, said: “This is all part of global Britain… This is us now reaching out with our soft power, using our diplomacy to defend religious freedom.”

The new training package will also give Government staff a crash course in the importance of religion to billions of people – and it may make damaging diplomatic blunders less likely.

There was embarrassment in 2018 when Britain’s most senior diplomat had to apologise for calling one of the holiest Sikh sites a mosque.

Research by the campaigning charity Open Doors suggests the persecution of Christians is getting worse, with “an average of eight Christians” killed for their faith every day last year, and 23 were “raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons”. It found North Korea was the country with the worst record on persecution, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence