BEIJING -- The title of Barack Obama's pre-presidential biography is "The Audacity of Hope." Chinese President Xi Jinping has written his own document released this week -- The Communist Party's 13th five-year plan -- that might be titled "The Audacity of the Chinese Dream." This blueprint for China's future signals the most momentous shift in direction since the death of Mao and Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening up in 1978. Not a leader to rest on the laurels of his country's remarkable success so far in rising to the top ranks of the global economy, Xi wants to leap over the "middle-income trap" in which development becomes stuck in a low-wage manufacturing export economy. To do that, he needs to avoid, in his own words, the "Thucydides trap" of conflict between China as a rising power and the U.S. as the established power so instability does not disrupt growth prospects. (continued)
This week, a new 21st century debate surfaced: How do we protect the data cloud we have all come to depend on when it is physically composed of cables running across the bottom of the ocean? The issue came to light after it was reported that Russian spy ships were operating near key cable routes. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis writes that, "Well over 95 percent of everything moving on the global Internet passes through 200 or so highly active cables, some as deep underwater as Mount Everest is tall." Lixian Hantover offers a profile of what the undersea cloud looks like and what its vulnerabilities are. Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance, calls for a new digital diplomacy to maintain the free flow of information across borders. "The solution to privacy concerns," he writes, "lies not in data localization, but in the development of secure systems and the proper use of encryption. Data storage actually means the continuous transfer of data between users, with no regard for Westphalian borders. Security in the digital world is based on technology, not geography." (continued)
On October 25, 26.7 million Ukrainian voters were called to elect their 168,450 local and regional representatives in the first local elections since the Maidan. With a relatively low turnout of 46.62 percent, the elections represented a genuine test of popularity for the government as well as a barometer of popular discontent over the course of reforms and social advances in Ukraine.
The WorldPost strives every day to chronicle the ongoing contest between two competing futures. One future is a world coming together through the convergence of new technologies that promise ecological stability, the empowerment of diversity and opportunity for all. The other is a world falling apart through bitter partisanship, religious warfare and the return of geopolitical blocs. This week we begin a new series that takes sides. Futurist Jeremy Rifkin lays out a vision of "the Third Industrial Revolution" that, through digital connectivity, clean energy and smart transportation all tied together through the "Internet of Things," can lead to breakthrough instead of breakdown. In an introduction to the series, Arianna Huffington invites us to join the conversation on climate change, technology and the growing global movement toward solutions that can provide a unifying purpose to all our connectivity. (continued)
The characters in Orhan Pamuk's novels are complex, hybrid identities. They are neither purely Islamic traditionalists nor secular fundamentalists, but, as Turkey's most celebrated writer and Nobel laureate has put it, of "two souls." "To have two souls," Pamuk once told me, "is a good thing. That is the way people really are. We have to understand that, just like a person, a country can have two souls." Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's military-allied, authoritarian and Western-oriented modernization from above bolstered one aspect of that soul in the last century. Over the last 13 years, current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamic-based AKP has bolstered the other aspect through democratic modernization from below. In the process, political space has opened up not only to the influence of conservative rural Anatolia but also for other plural constituencies from Kurds to the gay community. By trying to close that plural space now through increasingly autocratic tendencies -- in the midst of the Syrian civil war spilling over its borders -- Erdoğan has polarized the "two souls" of Turkey. For Pamuk, "to have democracy is precisely to have a dialogue between these two souls." "I am worried," he says, "because I know that in the end Erdoğan wants to govern alone at all costs. He does not want to share power." (continued)
MOSCOW -- Alexievich, who writes primarily in Russian, is very much a part of this "Russian world" -- that is, in the cultural and civilizational sense, and not in the political or military sense that gained currency during events in Ukraine. This "Russian world," this "Russian civilization" now stands at possibly the most critical juncture of its existence. And it is very timely that a Russian-language Slavic author who writes that this "Russian world" is standing at the threshold of the deepest crisis of its long history has received this award now.
This week the refugee crisis caused by Syria's horrific civil war moved to the next stage. Though prompted into action to curb the carnage, the U.S. and Russia are at odds over whom to bolster and whom to bomb. With no end to the conflict in sight, the influx of asylum seekers in Europe continues to swell and the prospect of permanent settlement there for the displaced grows. In even the most welcoming countries a political backlash is in the making. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity at home is falling for the first time as compassion reaches its limits. In Sweden, the anti-immigrant right-wing party now tops the polls. (continued)
Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping were both in Washington and New York this week for engagements at the White House and the United Nations. They didn't meet. But their paths certainly crossed. The pope made the moral case for tackling poverty and climate change. President Xi affirmed he will intensify the "reform and opening up" policies that have lifted 500 million people in China out of poverty over the last 30 years -- a feat accomplished more rapidly than any other society in history. And, as the leader of the world's second-largest economy, he pledged to join forces with the U.S. and others to spearhead the global battle against climate change. Francis' detractors may call him a "communist in a cassock" while Xi's party is Communist in name only, but this alliance of purpose that pairs the prayers of the pope with the formidable state capacity of China could actually move the big needle. (continued)
"Forty years of crisscrossing the planet has led me to suspect that the world isn't growing smaller," the inveterate traveler and literary journalist Pico Iyer laments. "If anything, the differences, the distances between us, are growing greater than they've ever been. In the Age of Information, many of us know less about other perspectives and other cultures than ever before." This week, the Berggruen Institute announced the launch of a philosophy and culture center that responds to this rift by connecting minds across borders through an exchange of scholars from East and West that will be hosted at prestigious universities from Cambridge and Harvard to Stanford and Tsinghua in Beijing. In order to promote foundational concepts for the future, the center will co-sponsor an ideas contest with the Aspen Institute as well as establish an annual $1 million Nobel-like prize for philosophy. (continued)
America was once regarded as a welcoming immigrant nation where races and religions mingle freely, a geo-cultural therapy for history's wounded masses who could leave their woes behind once they arrived on its shores. It is thus a jarring twist to witness the nativist rants of Donald Trump boosting his political fortunes at the same moment when Germany, where the ideology of racial purity reached its apogee, extends a tolerant embrace to refugees and redefines its identity as a multicultural state. The scope of this shift will surely generate its own backlash in the times to come. Writing from Berlin, Alex Gorlach sees "a reversal of history" as Germany becomes "nation of immigrants" and suggests America should "dedicate a new Statue of Liberty to the [European] continent." From Stockholm, Göran Rosenberg explains why Sweden takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country. Embedded in his piece is the orientation video for asylum applicants provided by the Swedish Migration Agency. Writing from Budapest, Miklós Haraszti sees political cynicism driving the anti-immigrant policies of Hungary's nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán. (continued)
The recent violence in Kyiv in connection with protests over Ukrainian parliamentary consideration of some sort of special status for the separatist part of the Donbas is unforgivable. But Minsk II, the hastily cobbled together peace treaty engineered by Germany and France under Russian pressure, is no less forgivable for having placed Ukraine in a near impossible situation.
China's reformist leader Deng Xiaoping famously counseled that his nation should "hide its strength and bide its time" as it grew to the top ranks of the global economy. President Xi Jinping has taken a different course. He is seizing the moment and baring China's teeth. Not unlike Ronald Reagan who declared in the 1980s that "America is back -- standing tall," Xi is signaling that the Middle Kingdom has returned and finally straightened its spine after being bent over by national humiliation going back to the Opium War, Western colonialism and Japanese occupation. Xi's stance was on display for all the world to see in the vast military spectacle on Tiananmen Square this week marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied defeat of Japan in World War II. That President Xi appeared alongside Vladimir Putin -- with no prominent Western leaders from the U.S., Europe or Japan in attendance -- was not only reminiscent of the Cold War, but a worrying premonition that the world once again risks dividing up into geopolitical blocs. (continued)
The undertow of China's slackening economy and the mounting tide of refugees pushing through border after border in Europe put the world on edge this week. After spiraling down, volatile stock markets rallied back, for now. . . Writing from Beijing, Fred Hu argues that what we are witnessing is China's shift toward the "new normal" of a slower growth paradigm focused on domestic consumption instead of investment and export-led growth. He expresses confidence that his country will weather the storm, writing, "it is a loser's game to bet against China's leaders." Nobel laureate Michael Spence locates the culprit of market volatility in the flood of funds unleashed by low interest rates looking for higher returns, which has led to the gap between a financial bubble and the real economy now undergoing a correction. (continued)