Tag Archives: China

Column: ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘the real world’

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

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Column: Shadow-boxing with China

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

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Column: ‘While there is peace there can be no traitors’

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

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Column: Mapping the humiliation of China

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

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Column: Will the US defend ‘a few rocks’ in our sea?

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

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Column: Can Manila influence Beijing?

As providence would have it, this is a good time to upload the following column, now that Senator Trillanes’ meddling in the issue is headline news. This tale of three papers was published on July 24, 2012.

It does not require any special access to realize that friends of China have already launched several attempts to try to moderate Malacañang’s position on South China Sea issues; we live, after all, in a famously porous polity. But the question is: Are there similar attempts, on Manila’s part, to influence the public agenda in China?

The paradox of the new China is that it is both a closed regime and an open system. Traditional readings of the Chinese political framework, Andrew Mertha writes in an important paper revisiting the concept of “fragmented authoritarianism,” neglect the reality that “although China remains authoritarian, it is nevertheless responsive to the increasingly diverse demands of Chinese society.” Continue reading

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Column: To China, with (tough) love

Written somewhat foolhardily in the middle of a seminar, and published on July 17, 2012. As it happens, this post is this blog’s 888th.

In the ongoing dispute with the new superpower over competing territorial claims, the Philippines finds itself between the devil and the South China Sea. No simple solution to the controversy appears on the horizon, and the country has recourse to only a few options.

But some options are better than others. I would like to make the case that, contrary to the usual speculative criticism, the Philippines has actually made the best of a bad situation. I remain worried that, in the end, and as a Chinese journalist I met last month on his way to New York argued persuasively, the current shape of the conflict would only strengthen the all-too-visible hand of the People’s Liberation Army. But what, really, can we do? The country’s options are limited. Continue reading

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