Published on June 9, 2015.
THE hit HBO series is as real as fantasy gets. The world imagined by the novelist George R. R. Martin and translated into compelling television by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss is both celebrated and condemned for its controversial “realism”—conspiracies are hatched in brothels, money and beauty are traded as political capital, the well-meaning are put to death.
For a show that includes ice-treading zombies and fire-breathing dragons, “Game of Thrones” is widely seen as a brutally frank dramatization of life’s hard truths. The powerful and ambitious are Machiavellian in their scheming; the state is Orwellian in its dependence on spies and informers; life itself is Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and (as in the story of the good, well-meaning Ned Stark) always at risk of being suddenly shortened.
Scholars of international politics have taken to the show. Leading journals such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy have mined the series (and sometimes the books on which the series is based) for lessons on international relations (IR) or political alliances or the nature of power itself. Continue reading
Published on May 5, 2015.
EVEN IN Baku, Azerbaijan, China’s shadow looms large. At the ongoing annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank, held this year in this storied city of the Southern Caucasus, China’s ambitions are very much a topic of discussion.
Beijing’s new initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, serves as a focus for much of the talk. At the first news conference held by ADB president Takehiko Nakao, for instance, the main item in the agenda was the announcement of a new, creative arrangement that would significantly increase the multilateral development bank’s lending capacity.
But many, if not most of the questions raised at the conference, dealt with the AIIB and its relationship with the ADB. The day before the news conference, Nakao had met with Liqun Jin, a former ADB vice president now serving as secretary general of the AIIB’s “Multilateral Interim Secretariat.” At that meeting, the two agreed to collaborate. “ADB will cooperate and cofinance with AIIB on infrastructure financing across Asia by using our long experience and expertise in the region,” Nakao said after the meeting. Continue reading
Published on August 26, 2014.
Did Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno overreach?
I have not had a chance to read the supplemental comment submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council in the since-resolved administrative matter involving Francis Jardeleza, the solicitor general at the time and now the newest associate justice of the Supreme Court. But a report in Rappler attributes the following statement to Sereno, also the chair of the JBC:
“Petitioner [that is, Jardeleza] cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of his client, the Republic of the Philippines, as its agent in the Unclos [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea] arbitration… His disloyalty to his client is a lack of integrity. And when that client is the Republic of the Philippines, it is treason.” Continue reading
Published on May 13, 2014.
UNOFFICIALLY FROM 1915 to 1926, and then officially from 1927 to 1940, the fledgling republic of China observed National Humiliation Day. “During the Republican period,” writes the scholar William Callahan, “the holiday commemorated May 9th, the day when the Chinese government succumbed to Japan’s twenty-one demands in 1915, which seriously compromised China’s national sovereignty.”
In 2001, the communist government revived the tradition, instituting the third Saturday of September as National Defense Education Day, a holiday Callahan said is informally referred to also as National Humiliation Day. “In this way,” he writes in “History, Identity, and Security: Producing and Consuming Nationalism in China” (2006), the holiday “is one manifestation of the discourse of national humiliation, which recounts how at the hands of foreign invaders and corrupt Chinese regimes, sovereignty was lost, territory dismembered, and the Chinese people thus humiliated.” Continue reading
Published on May 6, 2014.
Diplomacy is the art of calibrated ambiguity, and during his first visit to the Philippines last week (he will return next year, barring another American federal government shutdown), US President Barack Obama was nothing if not diplomatic.
On the question of the day, whether the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States would apply in case of an armed confrontation in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China, he was both forceful and ambiguous. Before reporters (and a television audience), he said: “Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China.” At the state dinner, and again before US and Filipino troops the following day, he described the United States’ “commitment to defend the Philippines” as “ironclad.” Continue reading