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)
What started as a civil war in Syria nearly five years ago has now evolved into an international crisis unmatched by any other since World War II. The global community now has a solemn obligation to end this humanitarian disaster, but it cannot do so unless all the powers affected by the conflict set aside their differences.
This is a lead in to the three days of speeches (Friday to Sunday) on a new development agenda for the next 15 years that applies to rich and poor countries alike, hopes to eradicate poverty, achieve gender equality, improve living standards and take action to combat climate change.
"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)
President Obama may have prevailed in his efforts to thwart a Congressional resolution of disapproval against the Iran nuclear agreement, but if a Congressional vote were to occur against his Syria policy he would lose hands down in a total bi-partisan meltdown.
MOSCOW -- Will Syria become a second Afghanistan for Russia? Is it wise for Russia to intervene in that conflict? Rumors are circulating that Moscow is planning a face-saving maneuver whereby it gradually "hands over" the Donbass in fulfillment of the Minsk agreement while aiding the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria to get back on good terms with the West. The plan sounds good in theory, but it looks unfeasible in practice.
Another meeting with Petro Poroshenko at the presidential palace in Kiev -- in the same office with the slightly kitschy decor in which he has received me on previous occasions. He is under strain but unperturbed.
My question to those who still believe in the Putin myth of infallibility is this: why did the Russian president recently decide on sending his armed forces to Syria to participate in that sad country's interminable and ever more bloody civil war?
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)
LONDON -- The refugee crisis that dominates Europe's TVs and newspapers is the product of the horrendous civil war that still rages in Syria. Why will we not focus our attention on this? The reality in Syria is that the war creates the refugees. Do more to stop this war.
Having bullied Ukraine and sparking Western sanctions, Putin looked to China, hoping Beijing would bail him out of economic isolation. What he did not expect was the significant slowdown of the Chinese economy, which obviously tamed the dragon's appetite for carbohydrates.
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- As long as Washington is seen by Moscow and Beijing as trying to contain them geopolitically and subvert their domestic political regimes, the entente between Russia and China will only grow stronger
In a world full of surprises -- the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the weakness in the Chinese economy, the battles within the European Union, the making of the Iran deal, the slide in the American stock market -- one of the greatest surprises of all has been the sudden rebirth of Russian power under Vladimir Putin.
While the refugee and migrant crisis is an existential problem for Europe, it is also a huge opportunity. The way it is handled will critically impact not only the future of Europe, but also its identity -- the European ethos -- economics, demographics and indeed (don't be scared!) culture.
President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown have both been pushing the envelope of efforts to bring climate change under control and running up against major ingrown opposition to their efforts.
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)