The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/09/2017

South China Morning Post—Bloomberg / Trump’s top negotiator brands China an ‘unprecedented’ threat to global trading system

  • “The sheer scale of their coordinated effort to develop their economy, to subsidise, to create national champions, to force technology transfers and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Monday in his first major public speech.
  • According to Lighthizer, the World Trade Organisation and the rules that underlie the international trade arbitrator were not designed to deal with China’s current approach to its economy.
  • While Trump has backed down from labelling China a currency manipulator and eased the gas pedal on slapping tariffs on steel imports, Lighthizer said on Monday that changes are coming to a system that leads to trade deficits and fails workers.
  • Lighthizer repeated that the Trump administration prefers bilateral deals to multinational accords.

Foreign Policy—A. Wilson / Is Russia practicing a dry run for an invasion of Belarus?

  • The Russian-led “Zapad” military exercises are being held in the northwest of Belarus, which voted for the nationalist Zianon Pazniak, and not for Aleksandr Lukashenko the last time Belarus had a real competitive election (1994).
  • Zapad is directed as much against an “internal enemy” as against NATO powers, namely nationalists backed by the West. And that, worryingly, is the same scenario that Russia claimed to detect in Ukraine in 2014.
  • The fear in Belarus is that Russian troops might manufacture an excuse to stay behind. In which case, the same scenario of nationalist extremists could be used as an excuse to “save” Lukashenko or even depose him.
  • The West would be wise not to treat Belarus as a potential belligerent but rather as an increasingly reluctant ally of Russia. Lukashenko has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s idea that Belarus is part of the “Russian world.”
  • Putin himself has taken a moderate line with Lukashenko, but Russian nationalist critics of the Belarussian leader are being given a lot of media space.

South China Morning Post—Jun Mai & Choi Chi-yuk / Xi Jinping’s political thought will be added to Chinese Communist Party constitution, but will his name be next to it?

  • The constitution of China’s Communist Party will be amended during the 19th party congress next month to include the political thoughts of President Xi Jinping.
  • The inclusion of a personal political philosophy in the charter is an honour bestowed on all of Xi’s predecessors, but the big question now is whether the addition will also carry his name.
  • “Once Xi’s name is incorporated in the constitution, his status in the party will be comparable to that of Mao [Zedong] and Deng [Xiaoping],” said the political analyst Zhang Lifan. “If it is not, Xi will be regarded in much the same way as his predecessors Jiang [Zemin] and Hu [Jintao].”
  • Beijing has yet to make public the official name of Xi’s political philosophy.

Brookings—D. Victor, et al. / Why the wiring of our brains makes it hard to stop climate change

  • Humans aren’t well wired to act on complex statistical risks. We care a lot more about the tangible present than the distant future. Many of us do that to the extreme, which makes it particularly hard to grapple with something like climate change.
  • Except for a small fraction that are highly motivated, most voters know little about the ins and outs of climate change, or the policy options relating to it. Instead, voters’ opinions about such things derive from heuristics such as political party affiliation and basic ideology.
  • When it comes to climate change, this sort of brain-driven behavior tends to create churn in political leadership rather than the continuity needed for long-term planning. It ejects whoever happens to be in office, rather than the real culprits.
  • Investments in new energy technologies bring costs down and also create new interest groups that can keep policy makers focused on controlling emissions when voters’ minds drift.
  • We’re likely to do better with policies that generate immediate and tangible benefits, while also surveying climate impacts on a regular basis, so that each extreme storm is less a novel event and more a part of a pattern that needs sustained policy attention.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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