ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 29/01/2019

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The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Trump steps up Maduro pressure with sanctions on Venezuelan oil company

  • The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. The sanctions represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date.
  • US National Security Advisor John Bolton said $7bn of PDVSA assets would be immediately blocked as a result of the sanctions, while the company would also lose an estimated $11bn in export proceeds over the coming year. The US is the biggest importer of Venezuelan crude.
  • Republican senator Marco Rubio: “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people and the money for oil will now go to them through the legitimate government of Guaido.”
  • As he took the stage, Bolton was holding a notepad with a handwritten note that appeared to read: “5,000 troops to Colombia.” “The president has made it very clear on this matter that all option are on the table,” said Bolton.

BBC / Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’

  • US and Taliban negotiators have agreed on a draft framework for a peace deal seeking to put an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said the Taliban had pledged not to give terrorist groups like al-Qaeda safe haven – a key demand from Washington if it pulls out troops.
  • The Trump administration’s strategy has been to put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government. The Taliban say they will only begin negotiations with the Afghan government once a firm date for troop withdrawal has been agreed.
  • The Taliban are speaking from a position of relative strength. It is estimated that about 15 million people – half the Afghan population – are living in areas either controlled by the Taliban or where the militants are openly present and regularly mount attacks.
  • Foreign Policy – Michael Hirsh / Ryan Crocker: The Taliban will ‘retake the country’

Al-Monitor – Jack Detsch / Mattis departure risks US policy void as Yemen pact falls apart

  • As renewed clashes between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels threaten to wipe out the fragile truce in the key port city of Hodeidah, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has deputized John Rood, the department’s No. 3 official, to engage with the UN on Yemen.
  • After James Mattis departure, some experts worry that Shanahan and Rood, both former defense industry executives, lack the contacts and credibility with Arab allies needed to salvage the deal.
  • The Defense Department’s new leaders have not publicly emphasized the Yemen talks in recent weeks. Since assuming the job about three weeks ago, Shanahan, who served as Mattis’ deputy, has been consumed by the US withdrawal from Syria.
  • House Democrats plan to reintroduce a challenge to the Trump administration’s war powers to support the Saudi-led coalition; the lower chamber passed a similar bill in November.

Euractiv – Robert Malley / The EU’s moment: Cast adrift by the US, threatened by Russia and China

  • Under normal circumstances, this would be a moment for the US and EU to join forces and push back against Russian interference or Chinese trade practices, but circumstances are anything but normal. Europe is caught between an ally on which it cannot rely and two major powers it cannot ignore.
  • That’s only half the story. Developments in European countries share a common thread. In France, after having benefited from the delegitimisation of traditional political parties and social mediators, President Macron finds himself confronting the very popular mood that helped him rise to power.
  • The tragedy for the EU, in sum, is to have reached the moment of its greatest utility just as it reached the moment of its grimmest crisis. And still – in scenarios as diverse as Ukraine, Iran, Yemen and Venezuela – Europe can serve as a political mediator of sorts.
  • There are no indispensable nations. But there are times when it is harder to dispense with some countries than at others. When it comes to the EU and its member states, today is one such time.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 28/01/2019

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The Guardian – Dominic Rushe & Lily Kuo / Huawei’s problems deepen as western suspicions mount

  • What began as a trade spat and grievances over corporate intellectual property theft has developed into a global standoff between China and the US over Huawei, involving “hostage diplomacy”, death sentences and allegations of Chinese espionage.
  • US legislators introduced a rare bipartisan bill last week that would ban the sale of US chips or other components to Huawei or other Chinese companies deemed to have violated US sanctions or export control laws.
  • Concerns about Huawei’s relationship with the Chinese government have led US politicians and telecoms executives to call for banning Huawei from the rollout of the 5G network in the US, the next generation of the cellular technology.
  • Poland, where a Chinese employee of Huawei has been arrested on allegations of spying, has called on the European Union and Nato to decide whether to exclude Huawei from their markets. Even the Chinese firm’s sideline business in solar panels is under investigation.
  • Foreign Policy – Keith Johnson / Just how much is China’s economy slowing?

Financial Times – Wolfgang Münchau / The commitment to EU integration must not be underestimated

  • We would be wrong to underestimate the significance of the treaty of Aachen, signed last week by German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron. In fact, one of the many reasons why the UK is leaving the EU has been a persistent tendency to underestimate such symbolism.
  • In 1969, EU leaders held a summit to set up a working group, headed by Pierre Werner, to study monetary union. The ensuing Werner Report was an unrealistic road map to a single currency. But it nevertheless managed to put this hugely significant policy agenda on the table.
  • Being in denial about integration does not square with the facts on the ground. There is no doubt about Germany’s ultimate commitment to monetary integration. The Aachen treaty provides no concrete solutions, but at the very least it underlines that commitment.
  • In the discussion on common defense, we may only be at the point where we were in 1969 on monetary integration. Aachen will not shift German political views on defense. But, over time, it could become more acceptable for a German government to raise defense spending targets — so long as this occurs in a European context. The way to a common army is not only paved with good intentions but with many small steps, such as a pooling of defense procurement.

Foreign Affairs – Harold Trinkunas / The Venezuelan opposition’s high-stakes assault on Maduro

  • The Venezuelan National Assembly’s bold and energetic move shows that the opposition has, at least temporarily, overcome its tendency toward self-sabotage and factionalism. Moreover, it has developed a successful new approach to mobilizing discontented Venezuelans against the government.
  • The opposition has conveyed to the armed forces credible assurances that military officers would receive amnesty for any crimes they had previously committed if they supported a transition. And it has signaled to Maduro’s supporters that much of the international community is committed to change.
  • However, Maduro continues to have the support and recognition of its most important international allies: China, Cuba, Russia, and Turkey. In addition, the incentive structure facing the military is still heavily stacked in favor of supporting the government.
  • Maduro may lose his nerve and flee the country. Alternatively, lower-ranking officers may simply gamble on a spontaneous rebellion to force the hand of senior officers, precipitating a violent outcome.
  • But there is also a very significant risk that Maduro will remain in power, although he will be more internationally isolated than ever before. The opposition’s gamble may end with its leaders imprisoned or in exile. This would leave the Trump administration in a very difficult position.

The New York Times – Ivan Krastev / Putin’s next playground or the EU’s last moral stand?

  • “In the Balkans the transition is over,” said Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” The question now is how these depressive regimes fit into a growing geopolitical rivalry.
  • In the last decade, Russia was actively defending its economic and cultural presence in the Balkans, but it never openly challenged NATO or European Union hegemony. That is no longer the case. Still, the conventional wisdom is that Russia might be a troublemaker but could hardly be more.
  • The conventional wisdom could be wrong. Moscow has sensed a vulnerability in the West’s position in the Balkans: While in places like Ukraine the EU has been perceived as a symbol of change, in the Balkans it’s seen as the defender of a status quo that may be ready for disruption.
  • Moscow wants to replace the EU as the mediator for solving regional conflicts, in the way it is attempting — largely successfully — to replace the US as a mediator in the Middle East. If it wants to remain relevant in the region, the EU should push Serbia and Kosovo to find a compromise.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 25/01/2019

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Project Syndicate – George Soros / The AI threat to open societies

  • The instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can produce are giving repressive regimes an inherent advantage. China, for example, is trying to consolidate all the available information about a person into a centralized database to create a “social credit system.”
  • Last year, I still believed that China ought to be more deeply embedded in the institutions of global governance, but Xi’s behavior since then has changed my opinion. My view now is that instead of waging a trade war with practically the whole world, the US should focus on China; instead of letting ZTE and Huawei off lightly, it needs to crack down on them harshly.
  • President Xi is the most dangerous opponent of those who believe in the concept of open society. But a new political elite has emerged that is willing to uphold the Confucian tradition of speaking out, and therefore Xi will continue to have opponents in China.
  • If the decline in the Chinese economy and stock market is severe enough, the Chinese social contract between the party and the citizens may be undermined, and even the business community may end up opposing Xi.

Washington Post – Adam Taylor & Thomas Heath / Venezuela’s oil gives Maduro little leverage against the United States

  • As tensions between the US and Venezuela escalate, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would appear to have an obvious tool to push back against American pressure: oil. But Venezuela’s economic collapse has made it virtually impossible for Maduro to use oil exports as a diplomatic weapon.
  • Shannon O’Neil, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that stopping exports or other attempts at hitting back at the US economically would hit Venezuela much harder than the US. Energy markets seemed to agree on Thursday, with oil prices rising slightly.
  • One potentially complicating matter is the fate of Citgo, a US-based refiner that has been majority-owned by Venezuela’s national oil company since 1990. According to Scott Modell, managing director of Rapidan Energy and former CIA officer in Latin America, there is debate in the US about whether the US government could seize the company itself.
  • Some opposed this, arguing that Citgo should be an asset available for a post-Maduro Venezuela. “On the other hand, people see it as something that still is a revenue generator for Maduro,” said Modell.

The New York Times – Rob Nordland & Mujib Mashal / US and Taliban make headway in talks for withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • American and Taliban negotiators are making headway on a deal in which the US would withdraw troops from Afghanistan in return for a pledge by the Taliban not to allow the country to host terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. The deal would also provide for a Taliban-supported cease-fire in Afghanistan and the release of some prisoners by both the US and the Taliban.
  • Many of the details remain to be ironed out, including how many American troops would be pulled out and over what period of time. Moreover, the US seemed to be making concrete concessions in exchange for Taliban commitments that would be hard to enforce once American forces leave the country.
  • “We need to be ready,” said Roland Kobia, the European Union’s special envoy for Afghanistan. Kobia said the EU had offered to play the role of a guarantor for the implementation of a future agreement.
  • Underlying the Afghan concern about an American withdrawal is the conviction in many quarters that the Afghan military would struggle to stand against the Taliban without American military support.

The Guardian – Helena Smith / Angry Greeks take to the streets over deal to rename Macedonia

  • MPs in Greece are preparing to ratify a historic pact that will allow its northern neighbor to change its name to “Republic of North Macedonia”. While a vote in favor of the agreement on Friday afternoon is considered highly likely, the atmosphere both in and outside Athens’s parliament was tense.
  • Alexis Tsipras’s minority administration, which controls 145 MPs in the 300-seat house, needs the support of six opposition deputies to pass the draft bill into law. Tsipras is expected to receive the backing of enough centrists and Independent Greek party defectors.
  • The Greek government had originally called the vote for Thursday night but was forced to delay it after parliamentarians across the board demanded to address the chamber.
  • MPs from northern Greece who signaled they will vote in favor of the accord have received death threats. Successive surveys show around 70% of Greeks are opposed to the agreement.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 24/01/2019

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The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Venezuela crisis: what happens now after two men have claimed to be president?

  • Yesterday, a succession of world powers – led by the US – declared they were recognizing the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful interim president. As the news sunk in, Venezuela specialists said they were unsure what the immediate impact might be – and how Nicolás Maduro might react.
  • “Today is the most serious threat [Maduro] has faced,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former US diplomat and vice-president of the Council of the Americas. “Maduro can’t acquiesce to this shift – he is going to have to react in some way,” added Farnsworth.
  • Farnsworth said Maduro might “turn sharpshooters on crowds and try to scare everybody back home”. If that happened, according to the former diplomat, the US and the international community would be forced to react.
  • Ratcheting up oil sanctions in an attempt to economically strangle Maduro’s regime would be the most likely step, said Farnsworth. But David Smilde, a Venezuela expert from the Washington Office on Latin America advocacy group, said the US in fact had few good options were Maduro to respond with violence or political repression.

Bloomberg – Tina Davis & Javier Blas / Two Venezuelan Presidents raises questions about OPEC leadership

  • With Venezuela boasting two proclaimed heads of state, it’s worth remembering that the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves also currently holds the rotating role of president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
  • There is some precedence if Guaido decides to send his own minister to the OPEC. During the civil war in Libya, two factions tried to attend an OPEC meeting, but the organization only allowed a representative from the government that was recognized by most of OPEC’s members and the United Nations.
  • The next scheduled ministerial meeting will be in Vienna on April 17 and 18, preceded by a gathering of the monitoring committee — which reviews the implementation of supply cuts — in Azerbaijan on March 17 and 18.

Euractiv – Claire Stam / Merkel champions multilateralism, Conte and Sánchez share two different visions in Davos

  • In her Davos address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended multilateralism, saying leaders should remember their national interests but bear in mind that other people have their own interests as well. Factor them in and you can have a “win-win situation”, she insisted.
  • The German leader sent the exact opposite message to that of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who delivered a video address in Davos the day before.
  • Merkel said it is time to “call a spade a spade” and see international architecture revamped so that it reflects current realities and power dynamics.
  • Also in Davos, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Spain’s Pedro Sánchez presented two radically different visions of the world. Echoing Merkel’s plea, Sánchez stressed the need to strengthen multilateralism in order to bring economic prosperity back and fight populism, while Conte spoke of a new humanism that goes beyond the traditional divide between left and right.
  • Of the three European leaders, Spain’s Premier was the only one to explicitly present the path to decarbonisation as a necessity as well as a business opportunity.

Foreign Policy – Lina Benabdallah / Spite won’t beat China in Africa

  • If President Trump, as his administration has stated, intends to have an Africa strategy centered on combating China’s reach in the region, the US needs to recognize how China’s influence actually works. China-Africa relations are certainly about infrastructure investments and natural resource extraction, but these go hand in hand with investments in people-to-people relations and sustained diplomatic outreach.
  • US diplomacy lags far behind Chinese efforts. The delayed appointment of Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was yet another signal that African countries are not a priority within the State Department. Even more crippling to US efforts may be the arrogance that oozes from the administration toward Africa, in contrast to the work done by the Chinese to present a relationship between equals.
  • Moreover, assuming Africans have no agency in their relations with China is a mistake. If Chinese governments officials or entrepreneurs step out of bounds and aggravate their African partners, they can and often do face steep consequences.
  • Rather than reducing US-Africa policy to a reaction to China-Africa relations, the Trump administration would be better off cultivating durable and stable relationships with all African countries. Chinese ambitions on the continent may not be entirely benevolent, but Beijing’s diplomatic approach is not only outplaying Washington’s but leaving a lasting impression across Africa.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 23/01/2019

Artificial Intelligence, Brain, Think, Control

Foreign Policy – Yuval Noah Harari / Who will win the race for AI?

  • All countries, regardless of whether they are tech superpowers or not, will feel the effects of the AI revolution. Most of the world’s data is mined by the US, China, and companies based there. If this trend continues, the world could soon witness a new kind of colonialism—data colonialism.
  • Until now, the development of AI has focused on systems that enable corporations and governments to monitor individuals. Yet the world needs the opposite, too: ways for individuals to monitor corporations and governments. By focusing on the latter, latecomers to the AI race could carve out a niche for themselves and also become a check on the data superpowers.
  • Alternatively, countries that can’t compete with the AI front-runners can at least try to regulate the race. They can lead initiatives to build tough legal regimes around the most dangerous emerging technologies, such as autonomous weapon systems or enhanced superhumans. And much as countries create laws to protect their own natural resources, they can start to do the same for their data.

South China Morning Post – Jane Cai & Sidney Leng / Xi Jinping has issued a rallying cry, but what is China on alert for?

  • On Monday, at the opening session of a Communist Party meeting in Beijing, President Xi Jinping urged hundreds of provincial leaders to stay alert for any “black swan”, or unforeseen, events and to take steps to prevent “grey rhinos”, the predictable but ignored threats.
  • A current account deficit, mounting debt, growing hostility from abroad and a decelerating economy – which could hurt China’s political stability – could be among the “black swans” and “grey rhinos”.
  • “By talking about grey rhino risks, the top leadership wants to make it clear that these problems are mainly caused by external factors,” said Chen Daoyin, a Shanghai-based political scientist. China and the US are more than halfway through a 90-day trade war truce, but tariffs remain in place on billions of dollars of goods on both sides.
  • Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia-Pacific economist for Natixis, said the great rhino would no doubt be real estate. “The reality is that it is a bloated sector. [It is] bigger than in any other country in the world as a percentage of GDP. But also more leveraged than any other sector in China,” Herrero said.
  • Financial Times – Tom Mitchell, Yuan Yang & James Politi / US turns down China offer of preparatory trade talks
  • Carnegie Europe – Judy Dempsey / Judy asks: Is Europe tough enough on China?

Foreign Policy – Christine Lagarde / Is the world prepared for the next financial crisis?

  • Ten years on from the Lehman Brothers collapse, one question about the financial system keeps coming up: Are we safer than we were in 2008? The short answer is yes—but not safe enough.
  • Globally, nonfinancial debt ballooned to a record $182 trillion in 2017—224 percent of global GDP, an increase of almost 60 percent over 2007. In emerging markets, public debt is at levels last seen during the 1980s debt crisis.
  • In the last year, we have already seen some investors pull money out of emerging markets in response to a stronger dollar, rising US interest rates, and trade tensions. IMF calculations show that with an abrupt tightening, there is a chance—albeit a small one—that capital outflows match those that occurred during the financial crisis.
  • How should policymakers respond to current challenges? First, they must complete financial regulatory reforms and, just as important, resist pressure to roll them back. Second, they should rebuild their fiscal and monetary arsenals. And third, they should confront more profound, longer-term risks to financial—and social—stability, such as climate change and inequality. Many of the measures that might make the world safer than it was before the last crisis depend on international cooperation.

Euractiv – Frédéric Simon / Regulators reject key section of planned France-Spain gas pipeline

  • The energy regulators of Spain and France have rejected an investment request to build the central section of the planned Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) gas pipeline linking the two countries, in a move that could spell the end of the entire project.
  • The project “fails to comply with market needs and lacks sufficient maturity to be considered,” according to a joint statement by Spain’s CNMC and France’s CRE.
  • The two regulators claimed that the project also fails to provide “a clear and positive cost-benefit ratio” with regard to market developments and “the future role of gas in the region, following the clean energy package recently agreed in Europe.”
  • The change of heart came from the Spanish side. The previous conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy was a fervent supporter of the project. But that changed in June last year, when the socialists came to power and Teresa Ribera took control of the ecology ministry.
  • MidCat had enjoyed the support of the EU’s Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. But the European Commission now also seems to have changed its mind.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 22/01/2019

Davos, Switzerland, Alpine, City, Winter

Project Syndicate – Klaus Schwab / The great reconstruction

  • We must recognize that we are living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in which businesses, economies, societies, and politics are being fundamentally transformed. Tinkering with our existing processes and institutions simply will not do.
  • Although many countries are still trying to catch up to the previous industrial revolutions, they should recognize that the 4IR offers unique opportunities for leapfrogging to the newest innovations.
  • Today, the global balance of power is being redistributed again – at incredible speed. Now that a single individual has the means to cause enormous destruction, we can no longer countenance a world divided between haves and have-nots.
  • If the “Great Disruption” of 2018 is to be overcome, the world will need a new framework for global cooperation and, at a more fundamental level, fresh thinking about what free, fair, and inclusive economic relations would actually look like in today’s world.
  • Financial Times – Niki Blasina / Davos 2019: What to watch for at this year’s World Economic Forum

Financial Times – The editorial board / France and Germany reaffirm their treaty vows

  • Fifty-six years to the day after Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer signed a treaty of friendship and reconciliation between their two nations at the Elysée Palace, today’s French and German leaders will appear in the German town of Aachen to endorse a fresh bilateral accord.
  • The Aachen treaty is largely an update that codifies habits of co-operation that have become routine over the decades. But there are some innovations.
  • Frontier regions will be able to derogate from national law to facilitate cross-border infrastructure or environmental projects. The two countries will strive to create a Franco-German economic zone with harmonised corporate law regimes. And there will be deeper collaboration on research, particularly into artificial intelligence, as well as more cultural exchanges.
  • A significant part of Tuesday’s treaty relates to defence. However, all in all, this pact lacks the operational detail of France’s Lancaster House defence treaty with Britain, a sign of continued German reticence.

The Guardian – Justin McCurry / North Korea: secret missile HQ uncovered as nuclear summit nears

  • Experts have revealed an undeclared site that reportedly serves as the headquarters of one of North Korea’s ballistic missile programmes.
  • The Sino-ri site, one of 20 North Korea is suspected of failing to declare, houses medium-range Nodong missiles that could be used in nuclear or conventional attacks, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
  • Victor Cha, one of the co-authors of the report: “The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose. It looks like they’re playing a game. They’re still going to have all this operational capability” even if they destroy their disclosed nuclear facilities.

Project Syndicate – Ivan Krastev / The metamorphosis of central Europe

  • In Central and Eastern Europe, why have people who still see themselves as wholly European endorsed a revolt against the European Union, while embracing xenophobia and nativism?
  • Populism’s appeal is more psychological than ideological. For Central and Eastern European countries, adopting a foreign model of political economy turned out to have unexpected moral and psychological downsides. For the imitator, life becomes dominated by feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, dependency, and lost identity.
  • Across the region, the combination of an aging population, low birth rates, and mass emigration has stoked a demographic panic, which has paradoxically been expressed as a fear of African and Middle Eastern refugees (hardly any of whom have actually ended up in Central Europe).
  • This unavoidable sense of loss and inferiority explains why Poland has become the poster child of the new populism. The fact that the same country has also registered declining levels of inequality, rising standards of living, and the fastest growth in Europe between 2007 and 2017 hardly matters.
  • Still, while Central Europeans have lost their appetite for imitation, they also know that the disintegration of the EU would be an epic tragedy for their countries. As a result, the region finds itself torn between reluctance to play the role of a pretender and fear that its own populist turn could precipitate a collapse of the EU.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 21/01/2019

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South China Morning Post – Amanda Lee / China economy slows further, matching its lowest ever quarterly growth

  • China’s fourth quarter growth rate of 6.4 per cent, year on year, matched that of the first quarter of 2009. That was the lowest growth rate since the Chinese government began publishing quarterly growth rates at the beginning of 1992.
  • For all of 2018, the Chinese economy grew 6.6 per cent, in line with the government’s target for growth of “about 6.5 per cent” for the year.
  • Last year’s growth rate was down from 6.8 per cent in 2017 and was the lowest growth rate since 3.9 per cent, recorded in 1990.
  • Reportedly, the Chinese government will set a growth target range of between 6 and 6.5 per cent for this year.
  • South China Morning Post – Sidney Leng / China’s birth rate falls again, with 2018 producing the fewest babies since 1961, official data shows

Politico – Jacob Hanke / US and Europe more skeptical about globalization than Asia: poll

  • People in Western countries are less likely to support international cooperation and believe in social mobility than those in Asian countries, according to a poll (conducted in 29 countries) that was published by the World Economic Forum ahead of its annual meeting in Davos.
  • Whereas only 54 percent of Germans and 57 percent of Americans believe their country “has a responsibility to help other countries in the world,” 95 percent of Indians and 94 percent of Pakistanis and Indonesians believe so.
  • Less than a third of Americans and Europeans said that it was “extremely important that countries work together towards a common goal,” compared to 50 percent of South Asians.
  • People in Western countries were also less likely to support migration and more skeptical than developing countries about whether it was good for them when leaders from different countries worked together.
  • Financial Times – Rana Foroohar / China’s Xi Jinping is no Davos man

The Guardian / Israeli military strikes Iranian targets inside Syria

  • Israel has struck several targets in Syria – munitions stores, a position in the Damascus International airport, an intelligence site and a military training camp – as part of its increasingly open assault on Iran’s presence there. Reportedly, 11 people were killed in the attack, which also struck Syrian targets.
  • The attack followed a previous night of cross-border fire, which Israel said was prompted by a rocket fired at a packed ski resort in the Golan Heights. The Syrian regime said it was Israel that had first attacked.
  • Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is hoping to win a fifth term in elections on 9 April, has been playing up military sorties into Syria that Israel had previously preferred to keep quiet.
  • “We have a permanent policy to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Project Syndicate – Shlomo Ben-Ami / A three-state solution for Israel and Palestine?

  • For all intents and purposes, the two-state solution two the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead and buried. And perhaps the most important reason is that the goal of two states no longer corresponds to facts on the ground.
  • Whereas the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) still supports the two-state solution, for Hamas the goal of statehood is secondary to ensuring the predominance of Islam throughout the region, and is unwilling to sanction the existence of a Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. A Hamas-led Islamic-fundamentalist state offers Israel the ultimate pretext to shun peace negotiations.
  • Israel’s “divide and rule” strategy has helped to create a state of affairs in which there are now three “states” involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Israel.
  • PLO founder Yasser Arafat dreaded the specter of a divisive agreement with Israel that could usher in a conclusive Palestinian civil war, as does Mahmoud Abbas today. A Palestinian civil war would be tantamount to national suicide – and a dream come true for Israel’s right-wing government. Given this, the two-state solution cannot be revived.

Washington Post – Robert J. Samuelson / Why I’m (slightly) less pessimistic about global warming

  • I have been routinely pessimistic that we can do much about climate change. Poorer countries where most energy growth now occurs won’t condemn their populations to perpetual poverty to satisfy hard-to-attain environmental goals. Many governments — rich and poor — resist inflicting pain on today’s voters for imprecise future gains.
  • But last week, a large group of economists issued a manifesto endorsing what’s been called a “carbon dividend” plan. The government would tax CO2 emissions and all the money collected would be rebated to households. This would be a good start.
  • Assuming the tax works this way, the lesson would be that we can, up to some point, curb emissions without hugely disrupting the economy. The rebate would sweeten the tax. Consumers who cut fossil fuel use would come out ahead.
  • None of this has changed my long-standing skepticism that, without some major technological breakthrough (safer nuclear power?), it will be exceedingly hard to halt the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. But I have gotten less pessimistic.

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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