ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 05/01/2018

Financial Times—Bryan Harris / Koreas thaw accelerates after Pyongyang agrees to talks

  • North Korea has agreed to hold high-level talks with South Korea next week. The talks — the first inter-Korean dialogue in more than two years — will focus on the North’s potential participation in next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
  • The development comes less than a day after Washington and Seoul agreed to postpone their annual springtime military exercises.
  • The US has been ambivalent on the topic of inter-Korean dialogue and fears talks could undermine Washington’s “maximum pressure” approach to denuclearising North Korea.
  • Yesterday, US President Donald Trump appeared to claim credit for the developments, tweeting that the talks were a “good thing”.

The New York Times—Carlota Gall / A rival steps up to challenge Turkey’s President Erdogan

  • Meral Aksener, a former interior minister credited with gathering much of the support for the “No” campaign in last year’s Turkish Constitutional referendum, plans to challenge Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming Presidential elections.
  • Aksener is a seasoned right-wing politician, who was expelled from the Nationalist Movement Party in September 2016 after challenging its leader over a growing alliance with Erdogan.
  • Last October, Aksener founded the “Good Party”, a platform from which she opposes Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic form of government and his anti-Western rhetoric. Aksener is calling for a reversal of the decision to move away from a parliamentary system.
  • Aksener predicts that Erdogan will call early presidential elections for July 15. “We saw in the referendum the country is split in half,” Aksener said. “The Good Party is the only party that can get votes from both camps.”

Financial Times—Nick Butler / The key energy questions for 2018

  • At the global level, there are four key issues that will impact energy markets in 2018. All of these four issues are filled with uncertainty.
  • The first question is whether Saudi Arabia is stable. The risk is that an open conflict between Iran and the Kingdom, which they have traditionally avoided despite their differences, would hit oil production and trade.
  • The second question is how rapidly production of shale oil will grow in the US. The increase in global prices over the past six months has made output from almost all America’s producing areas commercially viable and drilling activity is rising. A comparable increase in 2018 would offset most of the current Opec production cuts and either force another quota reduction or push prices down.
  • The third question concerns China, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s daily energy use. If energy efficiency gains in the country continue, CO2 emissions will remain flat or even fall.
  • The fourth question is the most important: how fast can renewables grow? The last few years have seen dramatic reductions in costs and strong increase in supply. But a radical change will be necessary to make the industry global and capable of competing on the scale necessary to displace coal and natural gas.

Project Syndicate—Joseph Nye / China’s soft and sharp power

  • A new report by the National Endowment for Democracy describes the new authoritarian influences being felt around the world as “sharp power.” A recent cover article in The Economist defines “sharp power” by its reliance on “subversion, bullying and pressure, which combine to promote self-censorship.”
  • Sharp power is in fact a type of hard power. It manipulates information, which is intangible, but intangibility is not the distinguishing characteristic of soft power.
  • Extreme deception in framing can be viewed as coercive; though not violent, it prevents meaningful choice. Techniques of public diplomacy that are widely viewed as propaganda cannot produce soft power.
  • As democracies respond to China’s sharp power and information warfare, they have to be careful not to overreact. Democracies should avoid the temptation to imitate authoritarian sharp-power tools. The best defense against China’s use of soft-power programs as sharp-power tools is open exposure of such efforts.

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

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