Whatever you think of Snowden

A sort of all-round statement on Snowden’s impact, nicely summed up by the Los Angeles Times:

Whatever one thinks of Snowden, his disclosures brought into the open a dramatic expansion of government power that had never been discussed openly by the people’s representatives. As a result of his disclosures, liberal Democrats in Congress joined libertarian Republicans in pushing back against an overweening national security establishment.

Barack Obama, the hypercool realist?

Stephen Walt writing in Foreign Policy reexamines the verdict on Barack Obama’s foreign policy. What he finds is a calculating intellectual that refuses to tip his hand or lose his cool.

Obama’s approach is causing more trouble for America’s various adversaries (and for some of its less cooperative allies) than it is causing the United States, and at a rather low cost to the United States itself.

What does this say about free-trade and globalization?

A nice little piece about economic nationalism from the Interpreter. On the one hand, Russia is apparently happy to endure sanctions in order to pursue its objectives in Ukraine. China, meanwhile, has grown more honest about how it sees foreign companies. A key line from the piece: International business people are often told here that ‘they are not invited to China to profiteer; they are invited to make the Chinese better.’ 

If the rise of the BRICs, led by China, contains an element of economic nationalism, how will that affect free-trade? On the one hand, the
mercantile impulses of China will ensure that foreigners don’t make too much money from China. At the same time, foreign companies will have more limits on the utility of sharing technology if there is a limit on how much a foreign company can grow there. Slowly, slowly, you can see a division growing in the global economy.

Why don’t Americans care about China

A piece in Foreign Policy warns China’s media about overthinking US views on their nation. 

While discussing US ignorance of Chinese news, the article hints at an important reality: Outside of elite circles in the US, Americans by and large don’t think about China. While they may be concerned about economic competition from China or an eventual military threat, day-to-day China simply does not register in Americans minds the way, say, Russia does.

Americans have strong views of Russia, in part because of history, but also the make-up of the US which still looks across the Atlantic not Pacific as the main theater of foreign news. And remember how cacophonous the media world is inside of the US – even valid domestic stories fight for attention.

But with the decision-making process among China’s leaders opaque, and in fact, the leadership conducted by committee many in the US would find little to grasp. China’s strategy overall is to never reveal too much to a potential rival. And so with no firm threats, military build ups, no clear motives, or international incidence, the American mind has little to grasp.

In other words, for the US view of China, ignorance may be bless.

But there is a risk, too, that his ignorance allows the Chinese economy to degrade the American one. Areas of technological advantage in the US may succumb to a competition that the nation as a whole never recognises. It would be a sort of stealth rivalry that could occur without the full knowledge of the US. This is a serious implication of a relationship in which Americans remain broadly ignorant of China.