ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 09/05/2019

Washington Post – Anna Fifield & David J. Lynch / China warns of ‘countermeasures’ against U.S. products if Trump increases tariffs

  • China warned Wednesday of retaliation if President Trump continues with his threat to further raise tariffs on Chinese goods, setting up a potential escalation in a trade war that had seemed just weeks ago to be nearing its end. A spokeman for the Commerce Ministry stated: “an escalation in trade frictions is not in line with the American or Chinese interests or the interests of the world, and would thus be much to China’s regret. But if the U.S. goes ahead with its tariff measures against China, China will have to resort to necessary countermeasures”.
  • The Trump administration has been pushing China not only to narrow its trade gap with the USA but also to develop major reforms on topics such as support for state-backed companies and intellectual property rights. There appeared to be some headway. Nonetheless, Trump tweeted on Sunday that China had attempted to renegotiate the almost-completed deal.
  • Trade data released Wednesday showed that Chinese export growth was disappointing last month. The value of Chinese exports fell 2.7 % in April compared with the previous year, against market expectations of 3 % growth. While the slump in domestic demand and exploding debt levels are the main cause for China’s slowing economy, the trade tensions are weighing heavily on it.

The Atlantic– Yascha Mounk / How Authoritarians Manipulate Elections

  • When Recep Erdoğan was first elected prime minister of Turkey in 2003, he committed himself to the respect the country’s democratic institutions, and to leave office if he ever lost the public’s trust. The reality of Erdoğan’s rule has been rather more bleak. He systematically grew his powers and purged his opponents from top positions. But even as the dictatorial nature of Erdoğan became clear, Turkey continued to hold multi-party elections.
  • The tremendous power Erdoğan now holds makes it all the more remarkable that a united opposition was, last month, able to gain an unexpected set of victories in the country’s municipal elections: Exploiting anger at Turkey’s growing economic crisis, and fielding a new crop of candidates who are both charismatic and conciliatory, the opposition pulled off two highly symbolic upsets, winning control of the country’s capital, Ankara, as well as its largest city, Istanbul. For the first time, Erdoğan faced a trade-off, Would he allow the election results to stand, thereby acknowledging the public’s growing discontent with his rule? Or would he exploit his hold over Turkey’s institutions to have the election annulled, making it blatantly clear to anybody who cared to look that Turkey is no longer a democracy?
  • For much of the 20th century, the most acute threat to democracy came from the barrel of a gun. When democratic systems collapsed, it was usually because tanks rolled up in front of the country’s parliament or presidential palace. But in 21st century, coups became strange. From Russia to Venezuela, the strongmen who have destroyed democratic institutions won high office at the ballot box. Far from openly attacking democracy, they have tended to argue that they, and they alone, truly represent the people. The new crop of authoritarian leaders is much more invested in retaining the appearance of a genuine democratic mandate.

Financial Times– Phil Stephens / Trump’s angry unilateralism is a cry of pain

  • The hardest moment for a hegemonic power is to see its dominance eroded. American president Donald Trump’s angry unilateralism aims to be a proof of power, but it’s more of a cry of pain for a mythologized past. The same happened in Britain after Second World War; Churchill would struggle to accept the postwar international order that would be leaded by the USA. Now it’s America’s turn. America’s unipolar moment passed as quickly as it surged at the end of the cold war.
  • Barack Obama’s misfortune was that he grasped early on the significance for US interests of these global power shifts, he achieved the right conclusions. If America could not run unilaterally, its interests were best served by leveraging the alliances with other states. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, defends that if the system does not work for the United States, he should break it up.
  • Among allies like Japan, Korea or the European Union, the US has lost trust. The common denominator in the policies of all these states is to wait until Trump leaves the office, which is mainly a mistake. Mr. Trump is not alone among Americans in his disillusionment with the old order. But the louder the president shouts the less inclined the rest of the world is to listen.

The Guardian– Jessica Elgot, Heather Stewart & Lisa O’Carroll / May buys time with hints at new withdrawal bill vote and exit date

  • Theresa May has achieved another week as British Prime Minister, hinting she will bring the EU withdrawal bill to parliament before the European elections and promising to meet a powerful backbench committee who have demanded that she set out her timetable for stepping down. “It is the intention to have a further vote, probably a second reading of the withdrawal agreement bill before the European elections take place and hopefully in the much nearer future than that. That is my understanding”, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, stated.
  • Members of the 1922 Committee have previously voted down proposals to change the party rules for a vote of no confidence in the Conservative leader, which currently mean they are protected for a year after winning a confidence vote, as May did in December 2018.However, some on the executive have hinted that views could shift if May does not give a more explicit departure date.
  • Bringing the EU withdrawal agreement bill to parliament without being certain of a majority is fraught with danger. Should the bill be voted down at second reading, it would not be possible to bring it back in this parliamentary session.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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