Party Not Required: nationalism’s long-term threat to the Chinese Communist Party

Xi Jinping’s well-documented attempts to become ‘chairman of everything’—as several observers have argued before me—are in fact a testament to his need to shore up weak central power. The Chinese party-state works through broad project campaigns, launched through the apparatus of party committees and propaganda organs. Local leaders take the cue to come up with […]

The dangerous long-term weakness of authoritarian leadership

A strong leader can put the house in order. Authoritarian figures with a vision have some successes on their names, notably in East Asia. But their cheerleaders often underestimate how much their achievements were possible because of broad support. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his 1994 Foreign Affaris article debunking uncritical celebration of the […]

Never Forget Chinese Nationalism’s Ethnocentrism

Saying that Chinese increasingly assertive nationalism has a rather ethnocentric streak is nothing new, at least not for those who follow China. However, only when you actually read the source material in Chinese, is the starkness of the PRC’s racialism really driven home. This is something analysts, and other people paid to have opinions on […]

Carving up the Girdle of Emerald: colonialism’s violent cleavages

The evil of colonialism is not expressed in a sum of its benefits and downsides. These debates over British railways in India and economic development miss the point of colonialism entirely. Colonialism is violence. It is not just that it entails violence as an inevitable product of its system, colonialism itself is an act of epistemic […]

Is China trying use the COC to beef up its Article 281 defence?

Besides ‘we do not accept,’ another legal argument China used to argue that the Philippines case before An Arbitral Tribunal under Annex VII of UNCLOS was inadmissible was that the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea prevented arbitration as per UNCLOS Article 281. This article states that if states […]

Section 377A is racist

Former High Court of Australia Justice Michael Kirby once termed the sodomy offence ‘England’s Least Lovely Criminal Law Export.’ Much has been said about this nefarious side-effect of the supposed rule of law exported throughout the British Empire in the form of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. There is a certain irony in seeing […]

The argument for democracy is its mediocrity

Any review of the argument for democracy as the best form of governance as a matter of tradition starts with Churchill’s citation in the House of Commons of the quote that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I oblige. Its popularity shows how wary many people have become of democracy. Gone is the faith of […]

Closed meritocracy in a segregated Dutch society

It must have been a news article on the occasion of a report from the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau; SCP) where I read this interesting observation: the Dutch upper class is both very open and closed. This outwardly nonsensical statement could be rephrased by saying that the Netherlands has ‘closed meritocracy’. It […]

Hedley Bull’s downside of nuclear deterrence: not so stable after all

Students of International Relations are probably familiar with the concept of nuclear deterrence so loved by especially neorealism. Simply put, the utter and complete destruction that today’s nuclear weapons are capable of, combined with second-strike capabilities, they say, create stability in the international system. Because attacking a nuclear power is too costly, no state will […]

Ue o muite arukou or Sukiyaki – the saccharine Japanese song with protest roots

Above is the sweet Japanese song 上を向いて歩こう (Ue o Muite Arukō) with its characteristic whistling. Known in the West under the virtually meaningless name ‘Sukiyaki’, this is the most famous version, sung by Kyu Sakamoto in 1961. The song was written by Ei Rokusuke. When you read the lyrics, you see the text of saccharine […]