19 April 2019   Leave a comment

Russia and China are not natural allies. They have years of conflict through which to view their relationship and they have fundamentally different social and economic patterns. But they do have shared interests. One such interest is the development of what is known as the Northern Sea Route, a sea lane through the Arctic. Russia controls about 50% of the Arctic Circle and China has a strong interest in developing a trade route that cuts weeks off of the traditional sea lanes through the South China Sea and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The two states are working hard to formalize this mutual interest: Russia is building up an infrastructure along the Northern Sea Route with Chinese assistance and the Chinese are very interested in getting access to Russian oil and natural gas. It remains to be seen, however, if the two states can overcome their mutual suspicions. But climate change has opened up the Arctic to great power politics.

Northern Sea Route

Francis Fukuyama is an astute analyst. I often disagree with his point of view, but I always find his arguments stimulating and provocative. He has written an essay for Eurozine on the different meanings of the word populist and how the term is used to describe many of the movements in the world today. He connects the economic dissatisfaction of many in liberal democracies with a need for cultural identity:

“This fear that immigrants are taking away our national identity is a theme that unites virtually all of the new populist movements. The reason that immigration is such a big policy issue for them is precisely because they feel that they used to define the national identity and that that is no longer true; that national identities are now being undermined not just by immigrants, but by the elites that support immigrants and want those immigrants to come in. And that defines the political contest that is ahead of us.”

Unfortunately, Fukuyama does not offer a solution to this conundrum, but I think his analysis is spot on.

Posted April 19, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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