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Culture war games: a democracy worthy of emulation

The World Is Getting Quietly, Relentlessly Better
By Greg Ip

For most of recorded history humanity lived on the brink of starvation. As recently as 1980 nearly half the world lived in “extreme poverty,” that is, consuming less than the basic necessities, which the World Bank values at $1.90 a day in 2011 dollars, adjusted for the differing costs of goods and services between countries. The proportion of people in extreme poverty was projected to fall to an estimated 8.6% last year and, given the correlation between growth and poverty, is almost certain to drop further this year.

Rising incomes alone cannot capture how much better life has gotten. “Nathan Rothschild was surely the richest man in the world when he died in 1836,” economists Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina wrote in 2017. “But the cause of his death was an infection—a condition that can now be treated with antibiotics sold for less than a couple of cents. Today, only the very poorest people in the world would die in the way that the richest man of the 19th century died.”

Mr. Roser is the founder of Our World in Data, a website that tracks the evolution of human welfare over the last few centuries. Scroll through the charts, articles and data sets, and you will be stunned by how much better life has become in just the last few decades: Child mortality, illiteracy and deaths from violence have all plummeted, and life expectancy has gone up.

The world first eradicated a disease, smallpox, in 1980. It could soon eradicate a few more: 2016 saw just 46 new cases of paralytic polio recorded; in 2017, there were just 25 new infections of Guinea worm, a painful and disabling parasitic infection. These victories come not through laboratory breakthroughs but the meticulous application of tried-and-true tools, such as vaccination and improved sanitation.

Much of the decline in poverty happened in China, where per-person income has risen 25-fold since China’s then-leader Deng Xiaoping inaugurated its economic reforms in 1978. India‘s economy, though, is now growing faster than China’s. If India can maintain its pace, the impact on global well-being will be just as momentous, given that India’s population should soon pass China’s.

As with disease, poverty is being eradicated not through technological miracles but basic rules of growth: Invest more in your human and physical capital, open yourself to markets and trade—that’s right, globalization is good—and incomes will rise.

It’s Not Always the End of the World
By Greg Weiner

The quadrennial inflation of political problems to catastrophic status is a form of historical narcissism, according to which the era in which we live is always grave, earth-shattering, consequential. This raises Lincoln’s question: Who benefits from the claim that these are end times for the republic? The answer is messianic politicians, especially presidents, to whom we give additional power to rescue us. It is therefore no surprise that those who seek the office tend to speak in grandiose terms.

Barack Obama, accepting the Democratic nomination in 2008, proclaimed “one of those defining moments” requiring “a new politics for a new time.” Four years later, Mitt Romney said the 2012 election would “shape great things, historic things, and those things will determine the most intimate and important aspects of every American life and every American family.”

In 2016, Mr. Trump’s supporters said his outsized style was necessary to “drain the swamp” and reorder American politics. On the substance, there has been less reordering or disaster than either his defenders or critics are willing to concede. Wage growth at the bottom half of the economy is climbing, as it has been since roughly Mr. Obama’s second term. The number of troops deployed overseas, an index of conflict, has been declining since 2010.

Voters might reasonably credit Mr. Trump with accelerating those trends, just as they might reasonably dislike his approaches to doing so. But the inflated, world-historical narrative that surrounds both his adversaries and him obscures what might be clarifying differences in the 2020 campaign. If the contest is about who can most shrilly characterize the nation’s condition as opposed to whose politics are best suited to the actual needs of the moment, the candidates will be difficult to distinguish. The sole question will be which extravagant leader we need.

Because it can draw sharp distinctions between candidates, prudence can be a political asset. Yet American politics has comprehensively rejected prudence. Historical rankings of presidents routinely lionize leaders who presided over emergencies, a dynamic that, as Lincoln predicted in 1838, generates a constant demand for and corresponding supply of emergencies. These rankings inevitably consign to oblivion presidents who simply governed according to the circumstances of their times.

Why Autocrats Love Emergencies
By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Crises offer these would-be authoritarians an escape from constitutional shackles. National emergencies — especially wars or major terrorist attacks — do three things for such leaders. First, they build public support. Security crises typically produce a rally-round-the-flag effect in which presidential approval soars. Citizens are more likely to tolerate — and even support — authoritarian power grabs when they fear for their safety. Second, security crises silence opponents, since criticism can be viewed as disloyal or unpatriotic. Finally, security crises loosen normal constitutional constraints. Fearful of putting national security at risk, judges and legislative leaders generally defer to the executive.

National emergencies can threaten the constitutional balance even under democratically minded presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But they can be fatal under would-be autocrats, for they provide a seemingly legitimate (and often popular) justification for concentrating power and eviscerating rights. Hitler’s authoritarian response to the 1933 Reichstag fire is the most prominent example, but there are many others. In Peru, a Maoist insurgency and economic crisis enabled Mr. Fujimori to dissolve the Constitution and Congress in 1992; in Russia, a series of deadly apartment bombings in 1999 — allegedly by Chechen terrorists — triggered a surge of public support for Mr. Putin, who was then the prime minister, which allowed him to crack down on critics and consolidate his power; and in Turkey, a series of terrorist attacks in 2015, along with a failed 2016 coup attempt, allowed Mr. Erdogan to tighten his grip via a two-year state of emergency.

Crises present such great opportunities for concentrating power that would-be autocrats often manufacture them. In 1937, President Vargas of Brazil, resisting term limits that would force him to leave office the next year, used the “discovery” of a communist plot (the so-called Cohen Plan, later revealed to be a fabrication) to dissolve the Constitution and establish a dictatorship.

Similarly, President Marcos of the Philippines did not want to step aside when his second term expired in 1973. But he needed a reason to subvert constitutional checks. An opportunity arrived in 1972, when a series of explosions rocked Manila. Following an apparent assassination attempt on his defense secretary, Marcos, blaming communist terrorists, declared martial law and established a dictatorship. This crisis, too, was largely fabricated: The bombings are believed to have been carried out by government forces and the assassination attempt was staged. The “communist menace” that Marcos used to justify martial law amounted to several dozen insurgents.

Many Across the Globe Are Dissatisfied With How Democracy Is Working
By Richard Wike, Laura Silver and Alexandra Castillo

Anger at political elites, economic dissatisfaction and anxiety about rapid social changes have fueled political upheaval in regions around the world in recent years. Anti-establishment leaders, parties and movements have emerged on both the right and left of the political spectrum, in some cases challenging fundamental norms and institutions of liberal democracy. Organizations from Freedom House to the Economist Intelligence Unit to V-Dem have documented global declines in the health of democracy.

The link between views of the economy and assessments of democratic performance is strong. In 24 of 27 countries surveyed, people who say the national economy is in bad shape are more likely than those who say it is in good shape to be dissatisfied with the way democracy is working. In the other three countries surveyed, so few people say the economy is good that this relationship cannot be analyzed.

For example, eight-in-ten Hungarians who say the national economic situation is poor are also dissatisfied with the performance of the country’s democracy, compared with just 26% of those who believe the economic situation is good.

Views about economic opportunity also play a role. In 26 of 27 nations, those who believe their country is one in which most people cannot improve their standard of living are more likely to be dissatisfied with the way democracy is working.

However, personal income is not a major factor. And multilevel regression analysis suggests that, in general, demographic variables including gender, age and education are not strongly related to democratic dissatisfaction.

In every nation studied, dissatisfaction with democracy is more common among people who say the statement “the rights of people to express their views in public are protected” does not describe their country well. This pattern is especially apparent in Europe, where in nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Hungary those who believe free expression is not protected are significantly more likely to be unhappy with the state of democracy.

Across the 27 countries included in this report, people who were more dissatisfied with democracy also tended to be less committed to representative democracy, and so more likely to support governance options such as rule by experts, a strong leader or the military. This suggests that dissatisfaction with democracy is related to willingness to consider other, nondemocratic forms of government.

How the Politically Unthinkable Can Become Mainstream
By Maggie Astor

You may have heard about the Overton window, and that’s not about to stop. With the political landscape shifting in sometimes startling ways, what was once an obscure idea has gained broader relevance.

Joseph P. Overton introduced the concept in the 1990s as an executive at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank in Michigan. He never expected it to gain widespread recognition, said Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center, and it didn’t until after Mr. Overton died in 2003.

Mr. Overton just wanted to explain to potential donors what the point of a think tank was, so he created a brochure with a cardboard slider. The brochure listed the range of possible policies on a single issue, from least to most government intervention. On education — an example the Mackinac Center uses — it might run from zero public investment in education to compulsory indoctrination in government schools. But neither of those extremes is going to happen. Only part of the range is achievable, and when Mr. Overton moved his slider, different policies fell into what he called the window of political possibility.

“Public officials cannot enact any policy they please like they’re ordering dessert from a menu,” Mr. Lehman said in an interview. “They have to choose from among policies that are politically acceptable at the time. And we believe the Overton window defines that range of ideas.”

Grass-roots mobilization can shift the window. So can think tanks, which was Mr. Overton’s point. But despite a misconception driven by Glenn Beck’s novel “The Overton Window,” the window is a description, not a tactic: Shifting it doesn’t mean proposing extreme ideas to make somewhat less extreme ideas seem reasonable.

“It just explains how ideas come in and out of fashion, the same way that gravity explains why something falls to the earth,” Mr. Lehman said. “I can use gravity to drop an anvil on your head, but that would be wrong. I could also use gravity to throw you a life preserver; that would be good.”

The key is that shifts begin with the public. Mr. Overton argued that the role of organizations like his own was not to lobby politicians to support policies outside the window, but to convince voters that policies outside the window should be in it. If they are successful, an idea derided as unthinkable can become so inevitable that it’s hard to believe it was ever otherwise.

Five Lessons from History
By Morgan Housel

One of the most fascinating parts of the Great Depressions isn’t just that the economy collapsed, but how quickly and dramatically people’s views changed when it did.

It’s not until your life is upended, your hopes dashed, your dreams uncertain that people begin taking ideas they’d never consider before seriously.

Nowhere was this more powerful than in Germany, where the Great Depression was preceded by a devastating hyperinflation that destroyed all paper wealth.

The book What We Knew interviews German civilians after World War II, seeking to understand how one of the most civilized cultures turned so sharp, so quickly, and committed the worst atrocities in history:

[Interviewer]: At the beginning of this interview, you said that most grown-ups welcomed Hitler’s measures.

[German civilian]: Yes, clearly. One has to remember that in 1923 we had the inflation … nobody had anything, everybody was unhappy. Then Adolf came to power with his new idea. For most that was indeed better. People who hadn’t had a job for years had a job. And then the people were all for the system. When someone helps you get out of an emergency situation and into a better life, then you’re going to give them your support. Do you think people would then say, “This is all such nonsense. I’m against that”? No. That doesn’t happen. How things were done later on is something else. But the people at that time were happy, even full of enthusiasm, and they all joined in.

These are some of the most extreme examples that exist. But the idea that people who are under stress quickly embracing ideas and goals they never would during calm times has left its fingerprints all over history.

How the Stanford prison experiment gave us the wrong idea about evil
By Stephen Reicher, Alex Haslam and Jay Van Bavel

There is one specific encounter which is particularly illuminating. An archived audio recording revealed that one of the experimenters who played the role of the Warden (David Jaffe) tried to convince one of the reluctant Guards (John Mark) to act more harshly towards the Prisoners. Jaffe seeks to engage Mark in a common cause—exposing the effects of brutal prison conditions in real life in order to generate support for prison reform. In order to achieve this shared goal, he is told the Guards must create brutal conditions within the study. By acting tough, Mark would be helping to advance this worthy cause. To use Jaffe’s own words, the aim of the study was: “to be able to go to the world with what we’ve done and say ‘Now look, this is what happens when you have Guards who behave this way…’ But in order to say that we have to have Guards who behave that way.”

This psychology is remarkably similar to the techniques used by Milgram to persuade his participants to shock the “learner” in his studies, by appealing to their progressive side. Far from being instructed to serve a noxious cause, in both studies they are invited to collaborate in a worthy cause (indeed, in his experimental notebooks, Milgram himself ponders whether his studies might be better understood as about co-operation rather than obedience). Where obedient participants in these studies are normally characterised as doing harm to powerless victims, from their own perspective they are contributing to important research designed to help others.

This conclusion has important implications for understanding the human capacity for inhumanity. In place of the old idea of harm-doing as an inherent human characteristic, the focus switches to the capacity to lead—or be led—towards evil. The old thinking diagnoses a “natural” tendency in all of us to be prejudiced against other groups, a tendency that encourages an “ancient hatreds” reading of all sorts of conflict, and assumes that people helplessly assume toxic roles in these. Such analysis, though, ignores the role of leaders in derogating others, invoking old grievances or enforcing roles. In reality, collective brutality is something that has to be mobilised. That suggests a first and obvious practical step towards tackling it—identifying “the mobilisers,” and then holding them to account for their acts.

A second implication is that to understand the capacity for otherwise ordinary people to harm others in extraordinary ways, it is necessary to look at things from the internal perspective of the actor. One of the surest ways to lead them to evil is to convince them that they are doing the opposite. Many behaviours that appear at a distance as vice, are only possible to the extent that the immediate view to those carrying them out is to regard them as virtue. This is what Claudia Koonz argues in her far-sighted 2003 book The Nazi Conscience. Obscene though it might seem, Hitler’s success derived from his ability to portray his policies as a moral project: reinstating German purity in the face of a Jewish enemy. The same logic of defending a virtuous ingroup against its imagined enemies was used to justify Stalin’s terror. It continues to be used today by Islamic State as well as domestic terrorists in justifying violence, as was clearly articulated by Robert Bowers in explaining his recent murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Once “we” are defined as uniquely virtuous and “they” are defined as endangering us, then the destruction of the other can be promoted and justified as the preservation of virtue. Whereas Milgram’s and Zimbardo’s findings often used to be characterised as showing that people can commit great harm because they act like zombies, thoughtlessly and mindlessly carrying the instructions deriving either from authority or from their roles, this old analysis misses a critical feature of human psychology. In many instances, perpetrators are fully aware and they commit great harm—but do so only to the extent that they believe they are serving a higher purpose. Indeed, particularly shrill calls to throw everything at some great cause, whether that be a nation at war or the advancement of science, should arguably themselves be interpreted as a warning sign that trouble is on the way.

In sum, it appears that our intellectual armoury against resurgent barbarity may be deployed in the wrong place. We believe that brutality does not derive from any lack of awareness of the consequences of one’s actions. Rather, leadership that proactively appeals to identity, the rationalisation of bad behaviour as serving a higher cause, and glorification of the ingroup are the infernal triad that takes us down the path to perdition.

Today’s Biggest Threat: The Polarized Mind
By Kirk J. Schneider and Sayyed Mohsen Fatemi

What is the basis for the polarized mind? While there are many contributing factors, from family and cultural conditioning to scarcity of resources to availability of weapons to neuropsychological dispositions, the common denominators among all these factors appears to be fear and anxiety. As an array of studies has shown, people tend to become polarized—fixated and extreme—in the face of helplessness, anxiety and fear.

This condition not only tends to make people feel small and insignificant, but ultimately—if the helplessness, anxiety and fear are strong enough—as if their very lives are at stake. The result of this outcome is that people will do all they can to avoid such death anxiety, including becoming violent and oppressive themselves as a defense.

The polarized mind has thus become associated with a range of extremist behaviors from despotism to racism to xenophobia to the obsession with power and control. Such cycles are evident in history: whenever people experience individual or collective trauma, such as wars, economic collapse and personal or cultural displacement, and they are unable to acquire the psychosocial support necessary to address these upheavals, the polarized mind is likely to predominate.

The Political Magic of Us Vs. Them
By Thomas B. Edsall

The debate over whether the rise of right-wing populism is driven by cultural anxiety, racism, ethnocentricity or economic deprivation may “be somewhat artificial,” Norris and Inglehart contend because

interactive processes may possibly link these factors, if structural changes in the work force and social trends in globalized markets heighten economic insecurity, and if this, in turn, stimulates a negative backlash among traditionalists toward cultural shifts. It may not be an either/or question, but one of relative emphasis with interactive effects.

In this country, the nominally class-based politics of the New Deal fractured when working class non-college whites felt abandoned by a Democratic Party that shed its pre-civil rights, segregationist southern wing and that by the 1970s had adopted a culturally and racially liberal agenda. Over the past five decades, these white voters have formed the core of the populist right. Conversely, minorities, many of whom face the same economic hardships as working class whites, if not worse, are firmly aligned with the party of social and cultural liberalism and racial equality, the Democratic Party.

“The new cultural cleavage dividing Populists and Cosmopolitan Liberals,” Norris and Inglehart write, is “orthogonal to the classic economic class cleavage” — in other words, the new division cuts across and splits the old economic class solidarity.

Norris and Inglehart suggest that the dependence of the populist right on older voters may lead to its steady decline as those voters die off, but they are not confident that this will happen. “It remains to be seen how resilient liberal democracy will be in Western societies, or whether it will be damaged irreparably by authoritarian populist forces” they write at the conclusion of their book. “The problem is not just Trump, nor is it just America. It reflects pervasive economic and cultural changes, for which there are no easy answers.”

Why do so many working class Americans feel politics is pointless?
By Nick Lehr

You spent months conducting interviews. Then the election happened, and Trump won. All of a sudden, there was a lot of interest in the very sort of community you had just spent time in. What’s your take on the ensuing media coverage of these small towns?

It seemed like there was one dominant story: older white men, angry and in pain, were feeling bad about not having jobs and blaming racial minorities or foreigners.

And an element of that certainly emerged in my research. But the overall picture was just so much more complex. One of the things that was very striking to me was how much distrust there was. Among everyone I interviewed – white, Latino, and black – there was a fierce distrust and hatred of politicians, a suspicion that politicians and big business were basically working together to take away the American Dream. Everyone was very critical of inequality.

So it wasn’t this idea of “dumb white people voting for billionaires because they don’t understand it’s against their interests.” Almost everyone was aware that the system is rigged against poor people. They blamed politicians for refusing to raise wages to a level people can live on. Many wanted higher taxes to support education. I heard a lot of that, across all of the different groups, and I didn’t read a lot of that in the articles about these communities.

You interviewed 108 people and only 37 of them actually voted, with 26 voting for Trump. Of the 41 black or Latino people you spoke with, only four voted. So to me, one of the major stories wasn’t necessarily support for Trump. It was a refusal to participate in politics altogether.

Two-thirds of the sample were nonvoters. They knew the election was happening but they just viewed political participation as pointless. They thought of it as a joke. And they said, “Look at what’s happened in my lifetime, it doesn’t really matter who’s been president.”

One of the critiques I heard a lot was that everything’s about money now. If you have money, your life is good. You can buy anything. But if you don’t have money, the system is stacked against you. I heard that from old white men. I heard that from young black women. And it was interesting, because it’s not untrue, right? If you kill someone and you’re rich you’re more likely to get off.

So I think for them it was almost like, “Well, if we participate, we’re just playing along and pretending. But we’re not naive. We know already that politicians are bought off by corporations. No one actually cares about us.”

What the forgotten Americans really want—and how to give it to them
By Isabel Sawhill

I went to Syracuse, New York; Greensboro, North Carolina; and St. Louis, Missouri. The people I spoke to were diverse in terms of age, race, occupation, and political leaning, and had modest incomes—less than $70,000 a year—and no college degree.

I asked them how they thought of themselves. President Trump had said he was going to pay special attention to “the forgotten Americans”—did they think they were part of that group? Some said they were; others thought he was talking about veterans, or the homeless, or those more disadvantaged than they were. When asked to say how they self-identified they gave a variety of answers from “lower middle class” to “working class.” A few spoke poignantly about being raised in “upper middle class” circumstances and then suffering downward mobility as an adult. Someone said she was in the “holding-on-by-your fingernails” class.

I came away sad for the narrative we’ve developed in this country that says we live in a meritocracy and the government is broken. The common theme is that if you’re having problems, it’s your fault and no one else’s. Even if you want help, you’re not going to get it from elected officials who care more about themselves than they do about ordinary citizens. I see a vicious and harmful cycle in this narrative. The less government is seen as willing or capable of addressing people’s problems, the more the cynicism about it grows. But that cynicism, in turn, breeds a dysfunctional politics that makes a constructive response to the challenges we face virtually impossible.

People voted for Trump for many reasons: party loyalty, dislike of the alternative, resentments against immigrants or other groups, and voter manipulation by Russia or others. But the narrative that rose to the top in my conservations is too important to ignore: Some Americans are disgusted with how government has been working (or more accurately, not working) and they want change—any change. When that change is not forthcoming, or doesn’t address their concerns, cynicism can only grow.

The Seduction of Pessimism
By Morgan Housel

Pessimism is intellectually seductive in a way optimism only wishes it could be.

Tell someone that everything will be great and they’re likely to either shrug you off or offer a skeptical eye. Tell someone they’re in danger and you have their undivided attention.

Hearing that the world is going to hell is more interesting than forecasting that things will gradually get better over time, even if the latter is accurate for most people most of the time. Pessimism can be hard to distinguish from critical thinking and is often taken more seriously than optimism, which can be hard to distinguish from salesmanship and aloofness.

Y2K got more media attention than any individual tech company.

SARS got more attention than the massive decline in HIV mortality.

Forecasting $250 a barrel oil in 2008 sparked immediate congressional hearings. Forecasting the bankruptcy of oil giants as electric cars proliferate sparks immediate giggles.

Why are we so pessimistic?
By Wolfgang Fengler

First, our brains are wired in such a way that we are naturally highly receptive to risks. Anthropological history would argue this is because our ancestors were always on the lookout for predators, since their chances of being killed by animals or other human beings were once (and for many centuries) very high. A portion of the brain—the amygdala—screens everything for negative news. Therefore, humans are wired to pay 10 times more attention to negative news than positive news. The reason is that until not too long ago, Sapiens were one of the underdogs in the savanna. According to Harari, we are thus “full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous.” Today, you can simply watch the evening news on TV to understand how this evolutionary feature of our brain still prevails long after we became—mostly—safe from roaming lions and bandits.

Second, negative news is bigger news as it is more dramatic (natural disasters, wars, and famines), sudden, and spectacular than positive events, which tend to be more gradual. The 24h news cycle will always find some (negative) event somewhere, which can be covered, in a way that is much easier and sadly “sexier” to the media and the public than positive news. The devastating floods in Mozambique make the evening news, not the stunning fact that 8,000 Indonesian escaped poverty that very same day.

Third, this “negativity bias” is further amplified in the era of social media. In the past, traditional authorities and intermediate bodies—churches, political parties, trade unions, sports clubs—neutralized extreme positions. Today these traditional authorities of intermediation have largely crumbled, and new forms of interactions put people directly in touch with one another, and specifically with like-minded folks, including for extreme positions.

Treat Far-Right Terror as the Threat It Is
By Leonid Bershidsky

The far right has never killed on the same scale as the Islamic State. But it has grown by feeding off white supremacists’ fears of Muslim immigration and the public perception that terrorism is Islamist by nature. That process has been helped by the fact that Islamist-linked attacks receive disproportionate media coverage. A recent paper by Erin Kearns of the University of Alabama and her colleagues showed only 12.5 percent of the 136 terrorist acts that occurred in the U.S. between 2006 and 2015 were linked to such groups — but they received more than half of the news coverage. If the perpetrator is a Muslim, the number of stories about the attack increases by 357 percent, the academics calculated.

In a separate paper, Kearns showed that giving people more data about terrorism doesn’t necessarily change their minds about its prevalence and nature. Policymakers, though, should be more willing to put their biases aside. While it would be foolish to ignore militant Islamist groups, governments must pay close attention to right-wing extremist organizations.

In Germany, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution already monitors all such groups (or 25,250 people at the last count in 2017, up from 9,600 in 2012). The authorities don’t just make a special effort to track right-wing crime by motivation, they also try to assess how many of their members are capable of violence through monitoring and infiltrating radical groups.

Though the German record of fighting right-wing violence is far from spotless (and the growing membership of radical groups is evidence of that), the approach itself is correct. Western governments must make an effort to keep a close eye on the far right just as they do on potentially dangerous Muslim groups.

Fears of far-right resurgence in Germany after murder of politician
By AFP/The Local

Investigators into Lübcke’s murder had initially said there was no evidence of an extremist motive, before arresting Stephan E., a former member of the neo-Nazi NPD, more than two weeks later.

Observers said the initial failure to draw a link to the far right was chillingly reminiscent of investigations into the killings of nine Turkish and Greek-born immigrants by the far-right militant group National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Investigators into the NSU murders that took place from 2000 to 2007 were looking in the wrong direction – from seeking blood feud motives to searching for gambling debts or alleged drug deals on the part of the victims – to explain the killings.

In the Lübcke case too, “some investigators did not want to admit the obvious – that a politician was liquidated here because he stood up for Germany’s constitution,” said Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Urging action, the daily noted that the like-minded militants were openly applauding the killing on social media.

“Hate is seeping from the fringes into the middle of society.”

More than 12,000 far-right extremists across the country are rated dangerous in official statistics.

Painting a dark picture of the reaches of far-right extremism, the daily also cited several cases in which law enforcers themselves were tainted.

Some 38 investigations were under way against police officers in Hesse state over right-wing extremism issues.

In Saxony state, police were also called out after some used names of NSU perpetrators as their codenames in a deployment during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“What must happen before police, prosecutors and domestic intelligence officers recognize that the most dangerous enemy is not on the left but on the right? And sometimes he is even within us,” asked Süddeutsche.

A Political Murder and Far-Right Terrorism: Germany’s New Hateful Reality
By Katrin Bennhold

Tanjev Schultz, an expert on far-right extremism, said the new threats against politicians carried echoes of the Weimar Republic, the period between the two world wars, when far-right terrorists killed a number of politicians to destabilize Germany’s young democracy, ultimately succeeding.

“Destabilizing the state has always been the strategic aim of neo-Nazis, but the German authorities have never really looked at it that way,” Mr. Schultz said. “They have tended to treat far-right violence as the result of random acts committed by lone-wolf actors.”

There has been a striking disconnect between Germany’s strong collective consciousness of its Nazi past and its far weaker collective consciousness of neo-Nazi terrorism in recent decades, he said.

“It barely featured in schoolbooks and in the public discourse,” he said, noting that this reflected the fact that “successive generations of officials simply downplayed this issue.”

Ms. Reker, the mayor of Cologne, has her own theory for this collective blindness. “Maybe our history is actually limiting our view,” she said. Germans like to think they have definitively dealt with that history, resulting in a self-deceptive attitude of “What mustn’t be cannot be.”

Far-right sympathizer suspected of killing German pro-migrant politician
By Joseph Nasr

Luebcke gave a speech in 2015 in which he advocated “Christian values” such as loving one’s neighbor, prompting at least one far-right publication to call him a traitor and publish his address.

Merkel’s decision to welcome so many Muslim asylum seekers, predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has fueled the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the national parliament for the first time in an election two years ago.

Germany’s main political parties say the AfD’s crude verbal attacks against Muslim migrants and populist declarations that Islam is incompatible with the German constitution are contributing to a rise in intolerance and hate speech.

The AfD, whose leaders have been accused of playing down Nazi crimes, denies harboring racism.

The interior ministry said last month that politically motivated crime had fallen last year, but anti-Semitic crime had risen by some 20%, mostly perpetrated by individuals with far-right views.

Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?
By Patrick Kingsley

It is unsurprising to find a resurgence of anti-Semitism at a time of prolonged political and economic instability, historians and analysts say, when citizens from many different political and cultural traditions are grasping for easy explanations for sudden and complex injustices.

Just as Jews were a ready-made scapegoat during previous eras of anxiety about the pace of social change or global economic trauma, so are they again today, said Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, the head of the Center for anti-Semitism Research in Berlin.

“Globalization and especially the crisis of 2008 have strengthened a feeling of being at the mercy of mechanisms that we do not understand, let alone control,” Ms. Schüler-Springorum said. “From there it is only a small step to classical conspiracy theories, which have always formed the core of anti-Semitism.”

That step is even smaller in the social media age. Rumor and conspiracy theories have always played a role in stoking anti-Semitism. Today, the speed at which lies can spread, because of the internet, is without precedent.

The New German Anti-Semitism
By James Angelos

The exact nature of the anti-Semitic threat — and indeed, whether it rises to the level of an existential threat at all — is intensely debated within Germany’s Jewish community. Many see the greatest peril as coming from an emboldened extreme right that is hostile to both Muslims and Jews, as the recent shootings by white supremacists in synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., and mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, horrifically illustrated. Multiple surveys suggest that anti-Muslim attitudes in Germany and other European countries are more widespread than anti-Semitism. At the same time, a number of surveys show that Muslims in Germany and other European countries are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views than the overall population. The 2015 Anti-Defamation League survey, for instance, found that 56 percent of Muslims in Germany harbored anti-Semitic attitudes, compared with 16 percent for the overall population. Conservative Jews see the political left as unwilling to name this problem out of reluctance to further marginalize an already marginalized group or because of leftist anti-Zionism. The far right, anti-Islam A.f.D. — the very political party that, for its relativizing of Nazi crimes, many Jews find most noxious — has sought to exploit these divisions and now portrays itself as a defender of Germany’s Jews against what it depicts as the Muslim threat.

German anti-Semites are clearly drawn to the A.f.D. One 2018 survey conducted by the Allensbach Institute, a respected polling organization, found that 55 percent of A.f.D. supporters believe that Jews have “too much influence on the world,” far more than the 22 percent average for the overall population. The A.f.D. does not, however, agitate directly against Jews like the far-right parties of old. Its politicians traffic in more insidious forms of secondary anti-Semitism. In a 2017 speech in Dresden, Björn Höcke, the head of the party in the eastern German state of Thuringia, lamented the existence of the Holocaust memorial near the Brandenburg Gate — a “monument of shame,” as he referred to it — and called for a “180 degree turn” in Germany’s “politics of memory.” To deny the Holocaust is illegal in Germany, a country with legal restrictions on hate speech. But to suggest that it be forgotten is a circuitous way of reaching the same end.

Germany Has a Neo-Nazi Terrorism Epidemic
By Peter Kuras

Tanjev Schultz, a professor of journalism at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and the author of a prizewinning book about right-wing terrorism in Germany, says that in Germany’s public imagination terrorism tends to be associated with the left. Memories of the Red Army Faction and the series of political assassinations it undertook are still in the foreground of many Germans’ minds. Meanwhile, neofascistic terrorist attacks like the bombing of a Munich beer garden in 1980 have been largely forgotten.

This blindness to right-wing terrorism is one of the reasons, Schultz told me, that it took authorities so long to recognize that the 10 murders carried out by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) beginning in 2000 were the work of a terrorist organization. Indeed, as Jacob Kushner has documented in Foreign Policy, authorities largely tried to restrict the investigation into the group’s three core members, Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt, and Beate Zschäpe, despite the fact that there was strong evidence that they had substantial support from other right-wing extremists, as well as some indication that some of that support may have come from within the government.

Seehofer’s promise to devote increased resources to combating right-wing terrorism has thus encountered widespread skepticism that the commitment will be upheld. That impression has been reinforced by separate investigations that have recently revealed right-wing networks within German police forces: In December 2018, an investigation into Frankfurt’s police force revealed a group chat that regularly employed Nazi iconography. On June 26, police searched the apartment of a member of the group chat, who has been accused of sending racist faxes to one of the lawyers who represented a victim of the NSU—one of them threatened to butcher the lawyer’s young daughter. They were signed “NSU 2.0.”

Then, on June 28, news broke that an organization called Nordkreuz had used police records to compile a “death list” of almost 25,000 liberal and left-leaning politicians—it had also stockpiled weapons, body bags, and quicklime. Hope that federal authorities would intervene where local authorities had failed to act are also dim given that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s answer to the NSA, has often been accused of complicity in right-wing activity. This is seen most drastically, as Kushner documents in his Foreign Policy story, in the office’s failure to make proper use of informants during the investigation in the NSU. More recently, the former head of the organization, Hans-Georg Maaßen, drew criticism for his baseless claims that videos of right-wing violence during an August 2018 riot in Chemnitz were doctored.

On Edge from Attacks, Germany Finds Far-Right Radicals Within Security Services
By Bojan Pancevski

Authorities’ investigations into their own ranks have uncovered people who also question the legitimacy of the government and profess admiration for the autocratic rule of President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, according to classified documents concerning two larger investigations seen by The Wall Street Journal, as well as interviews with investigators, suspects and their associates.

Indeed, a group of active servicemen met with Russian elite soldiers and operatives of the FSB, Russia’s main intelligence service, in Stuttgart and in Russia, according to one participant, in 2017 and 2018.

A spokesman for the military declined to comment on any internal investigation. A spokesman for the domestic intelligence agency said it was looking into Russian links uncovered by the criminal probe. The Federal Criminal Office, Germany’s FBI, declined to comment on its investigations.

A senior member of Uniter, a support group for veterans, dismissed all allegations of extremism or any illegal activity. He said that army and law-enforcement officials were increasingly frustrated with the way the country was being run.

“Tensions are rising just as we are facing an economic downturn. Social peace is now bought with money, but there is turbulence ahead,” the person said. “We are sitting on a powder keg.”

Getting Real About Rural America
By Paul Krugman

West Germany invested $1.7 trillion in an attempt to revive the former East Germany — more than $100,000 per capita — yet the region is still lagging, with many young people leaving.

Nor, realistically, can we expect aid to produce a political turnaround. Despite all that aid, in 2017 more than a quarter of East German men cast their ballots for the extreme-right, white nationalist Alternative for Germany.

I’m sure that some rural readers will be angered by everything I’ve just said, seeing it as typical big-city condescension. But that’s neither my intention nor the point. I’m simply trying to get real. We can’t help rural America without understanding that the role it used to play in our nation is being undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.

The South’s Economy Is Falling Behind: ‘All of a Sudden the Money Stops Flowing’
By Sharon Nunn

Rural Adams County in the southwest corner of Mississippi exemplifies the typical story of the South’s rise and fall. It once attracted thousands of higher-paid factory jobs, particularly in the 1930s, when a big tire and rubber plant arrived. But the major factories began closing in the 2000s; the tire plant shut down in 2001. “Friends and family that have been here for 20 years…were packing up and leaving,” says Chandler Russ, who grew up in Adams.

The income gains the county notched against the rest of the country from the 1950s to the 2000s have completely reversed.

The county population peaked in 1982 at 39,172, and has declined about 20% since. Factory jobs, 18.5% of the county’s total in 1992, were just 5% in 2017. Per capita income is now 56.8% of the national average.

The West Has a Resentment Epidemic
By Roberto Stefan Foa and Jonathan Wilmot

Thinking in terms of the new regional class divide also solves one of the perennial mysteries of the populist wave in Europe and the U.S.: Why is the disruption happening now, rather than a decade ago, at the height of the global financial crisis? The answer emerges very quickly when looking at how different regions have recovered—or not recovered—in the decade since.

While the crisis proved only a temporary setback for cosmopolitan cities such as London, Amsterdam, and New York—whose financial sectors were bailed out by government largesse—blighted ex-industrial regions continue to struggle under the burden of austerity. In the decade from 2008 to 2016, while GDP per capita rose over 13 percent for California and New York, it rose on average less than 3 percent across other U.S. states. While GDP per capita rose over 6 percent in Greater London, they rose by only half that in the rest of the U.K., and while per capita GDP recovered in Greater Paris by 3 percent, in the rest of France incomes did not grow at all. It is a pattern found across Europe, from the Netherlands to Sweden to Denmark, Italy, Ireland, and Greece. Wealthy, cosmopolitan cities surge ahead, and the periphery gets left further and further behind.

What’s Driving Populism?
By Dani Rodrik

Higher penetration of Chinese imports has been found to be implicated in support for Brexit in Britain and the rise of far-right nationalist parties in continental Europe. Austerity and broader measures of economic insecurity have been shown to have played a statistically significant role as well. And in Sweden, increased labor-market insecurity has been linked empirically to the rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

The cultural and economic arguments may seem to be in tension – if not downright inconsistent – with each other. But, reading between the lines, one can discern a type of convergence. Because the cultural trends – such as post-materialism and urbanization-promoted values – are of a long-term nature, they do not fully account for the timing of the populist backlash. (Norris and Inglehart posit a tipping point where socially conservative groups have become a minority but still have disproportionate political power.) And those who advocate for the primacy of cultural explanations do not in fact dismiss the role of economic shocks. These shocks, they maintain, aggravated and exacerbated cultural divisions, giving authoritarian populists the added push they needed.

Norris and Inglehart, for example, argue that “medium-term economic conditions and growth in social diversity” accelerated the cultural backlash, and show in their empirical work that economic factors did play a role in support for populist parties. Similarly, Wilkinson emphasizes that “racial anxiety” and “economic anxiety” are not alternative hypotheses, because economic shocks have greatly intensified urbanization-led cultural sorting. For their part, economic determinists should recognize that factors like the China trade shock do not occur in a vacuum, but in the context of pre-existing societal divisions along socio-cultural lines.

Free trade doesn’t just lead to job loss. It means more deaths from drug overdoses and increased military recruitment.
By Adam Dean

Critics such as Neal argue that American free trade agreements fail to address what happens to local communities that are hit by waves of imports and layoffs. While the economic and political consequences of trade-related job losses are well known — lower wages and more support for populist leaders — my research suggests that the impact of free trade is much broader.

Job loss generally increases the risk of depression and drug misuse. Since jobs lost from trade are relatively “good” manufacturing jobs — offering better wages, benefits, and higher unionization rates than the rest of the private sector — it may be even more difficult for workers to adjust after layoffs. Worse still, the risk of drug use has significantly increased with the introduction of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, into heroin markets around the United States.

Most of America’s rural areas are doomed to decline
By David Swenson

Most micropolitan and rural communities have no viable economic Plan B, so I believe that the majority of them are fated to dwindle until eventually reaching some level of stability.

Federal and state governments provide them fresh water and wastewater treatment assistance, health care access, subsidized transportation and workforce training, but none of that alters the underlying forces inhibiting their collective prospects for growth. Every core industry originally undergirding these areas continues to shed jobs.

Meanwhile, the nation’s metropolitan cities continue to accumulate greater opportunities for meaningful jobs, career advancement and enhanced qualities of lives.

As a researcher who has studied rural economies for more than three decades, I urge policymakers to seriously consider the fact that most rural areas will not grow. It is important to develop policies that assure access to necessary public services, connect rural residents to modern technologies for the sake of participating meaningfully in modern society and safeguard that which is good and appealing about these less populated places.

America’s new redneck rebellion
By Edward Luce

At his town halls, Smith plays a game of musical chairs. He picks six volunteers and arranges five chairs on the stage. Two of the volunteers are given two chairs each, which they lounge over. That leaves one chair for the four other people. They tend to squabble over who takes the remaining chair rather than try to evict the first two from their perches.

That is how politics works, says Smith. People with nothing tend to fight each other over the little that remains. People with everything know how to make the rest scramble.

It is a simple yet strangely effective game. Next, Smith asks the audience what is the first thing a campaign does. The answer is that it seeks large donors to fund itself. “Who then gets to shape the campaign?” asks Smith. “The donors!” comes the answer. Smith then explains that he is restricting his fundraising to small donors. Who controls our campaign? he asks. “We do!” comes the reply. Yes, he says. This is your campaign.

I watched Smith interact with several different groups. He makes up in earnestness what he lacks in charisma. Some voters, such as Mike Weaver, are fans of Smith but are also supporters of Trump. Others, such as the Steeles, detest Trump and are strong backers of Smith.

The Steeles have even held small fundraisers in their backyard, where they give out red bandanas. “I’ve done more for Smith than any candidate in my life,” says Terry. Interestingly, both Weaver and the Steeles speak warmly about Manchin. “He always responds when you ask for his help,” says Weaver.

Most West Virginians, however, do not bother to vote. The only category that beat Trump in West Virginia was those who did not go to the polling booths — 43 per cent of the adult population. Even in 2016, it seems, apathy was a larger force than anger. That is how Smith’s musical-chair winners seem to like it.

Smith’s bet is that there is an older redneck surviving beneath today’s West Virginian. The original miners took control of their destiny and embraced solidarity. Many of their descendants have fallen sway to the politics of identity.

Identity, beliefs, and political conflict
By Nicola Gennaioli and Guido Tabellini

For instance, a trend in globalisation clusters individual interests along exposure to foreign competition or immigration relative to, say, the traditional rich-poor divide. As a result, social identities switch from a poor versus rich conflict to a conflict between globalists and nationalists. Poor or uneducated voters exposed to the costs of immigration or globalisation de-identify with their economic class and identify with the nationalist group. This reduces their demand for redistribution and enhances their demand of external protection. These voters may benefit from greater redistribution, but they do not demand it because they now identify with a group that is more heterogeneous across income classes. Likewise, rich or educated voters benefitting from immigration or globalisation also change their identification to the cosmopolitan group. Their demand for redistribution increases and their demand for openness increases. Overall, social alliances change, individual beliefs about redistribution become less polarised, while beliefs over trade protection or immigration become more polarised. Political conflict over redistribution dampens; conflict over globalisation intensifies.

Trade and technology shocks are not the only source of political frictions in modern democracies. Socially conservative cultural views, which were once majoritarian, have gradually been eroded by slow-moving social changes, such as the diffusion of college education and changing gender roles. These cumulative changes created fault lines within traditional political groups defined on the left versus right dimension. Trade and technology shocks increased the relevance of these fault lines, and triggered changes in political and social identities. Socially conservative poor voters, who traditionally identified with left-wing groups despite their social conservatism, are now attracted by nationalism because it appeals to both their trade preferences and their cultural views, and vice versa for voters with opposite political features. As this happens, traditional income- or class-based conflict wanes and is replaced by new political cleavages over correlated dimensions. Political beliefs reflect these new social identities and amplify the effect of these social and economic changes.

If this view of the world is correct, the disruptive political changes that we observe in many democracies are not transitory phenomena, but represent profound and long-lasting transformations of our political systems. One important question in this respect concerns the role of the media. If exposure to social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, strengthens stereotypical thinking, it may cause the consequences of these new political and social identifications to become extreme. At the same time, identities are not biologically ingrained. Because individuals belong to several different groups at the same time, less-polarising identities are always available. As argued by Sen (2007), political platforms reminding people of these alternative identities may reduce polarisation and favour the establishment of a less conflictual political life.

The new identity politics
By Francis Fukuyama

At this point I want to make something very clear: a lot of people have accused me of blaming the left for the rise of rightwing populism. I am not doing that. I am just trying to present a history of what happened in the evolution of how we think about left and right. There are many reasons for rightwing populism, and economic ones are definitely among them. But another has also been the borrowing of the leftwing concept of identity by the right. Fifty years ago, if you were a white person in the US, you would not even have thought of yourself as a white person. You would have just thought: I am an American, because that is what an American is. Today, you are getting these white nationalists who say: ‘I am a majority that is being discriminated against by elites. I belong to a group that is not really privileged at all. This is being foisted on me by people that really are privileged, all of these educated people in universities, in the media, and so forth. So, identity – this framing of identity – has moved from the left to the right. It is not the left that has caused this, it’s rather a shared understanding of victimization that has travelled from left to right.

I want to emphasize that, to some extent, these people’s understanding of themselves as disregarded and disrespected is true. There is a tendency to dismiss populist voters as just a bunch of racists and xenophobes. It is true that they are white people who had been dominant in their societies, and who are losing some of that dominance. They resent that loss and are trying to return to their old social position. But I think it is also important to understand that they actually have a case; that they have indeed been disrespected and disregarded by the elites. This is more reasonable if you look at what happened to this white working class in the US, a large part of which actually followed the black working class into a kind of social chaos. Today, among low-skilled white workers, you have a vast increase in the number of single-parent families, you have increases in crime rates in poor white neighbourhoods, you have an opioid epidemic that has killed over 70,000 Americans and actually lowered life expectancy for white males in the US in the last couple of years. So, it is very hard to say that these people are not in fact, in some sense, doing extremely badly.

But the cultural aspect of it is what is particularly infuriating to people. There is a very nice book called Strangers in Their Own Land by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild. She interviewed a lot of Tea Party voters in rural Louisiana and she has this metaphor – the central metaphor in her book – where these people see themselves as being lined up in a queue. And in the distance there is a door, over which it says ‘the American Dream’. They are raising families, going to work every day. All of a sudden, they see people jumping the queue. Some are black, some are women, some are gays and lesbians, some are Syrian refugees. And the people that are helping them jump the queue are, frankly, people like you and me: they are educated, people in the arts, in the media, and in the established political parties, people who have never paid much attention to them. I think that there is a cultural snobbery of the educated, cosmopolitan, urban-dwelling, sophisticated people that make up elites in modern societies, towards people that have less education, that do not live in big cities, that have more traditional social and cultural values. There is a degree of justified resentment at that kind of disregard.

So, this is where we have ended up. 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.

The History And Politics Of White Identity
By Kenan Malik

This has been exacerbated by the changing relationship between the working class, the left, and the far-right. Social democratic parties in Europe have moved away from their old working class constituencies. Many sections of the working class have found themselves politically voiceless at the very time their lives have become more precarious, as jobs have declined, public services savaged, austerity imposed, and inequality risen.

These issues have been taken up by the identity movements of the right. Such movements often link a reactionary politics of identity, rooted in hostility to migrants and Muslims, to economic and social policies that once were the staple of the left: defence of jobs, support for the welfare state, opposition to austerity. The result is a new kind of mass politics and the refashioning of the original reactionary politics of identity for a new age. Through the normalisation of ‘white identity’, racism has acquired a new legitimacy.

The reactionary politics of white identity can no more defend the interests of the working class – white or not – than the supposedly radical politics of identity can defend the interests of minorities. Both transform solidarity from a sense of commonality with those sharing my values and aspirations, though not necessarily my skin colour or culture, to an identity with those who do not share my political hopes, and may undermine my interests, but whose skin colour or cultural background is similar.

There is no singular set of interests shared by all whites. Those responsible for the marginalisation of the working class are also largely white – politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, company bosses. The notion of ‘white identity’ obscures the real problems facing the working class and so makes it more difficult to challenge them.

White identity is the original identity of identity politics, and reveals the reactionary roots of the politics of identity. To challenge inequality and injustice, to defend working class interests, requires us to challenge also the politics of identity, however it expresses itself.

“In the Wake of the 2008 Crisis, You Can’t Ignore the Influence of Big Business on Economic Policy”
By Asher Schechter

Q: What role the crisis play a part in the rise of far-right nationalism in the US and Europe?

The analogy that I found most helpful to explain my position is to say it’s like an earthquake. An earthquake strikes, how much of a shock [you experience] depends on how close to the epicenter you are. If the distance from the epicenter is the same for everyone, the question whether your building survives or not is a question of architecture, engineering and maintenance. Some political systems have bad architecture, are poorly maintained and are run by people who are aggressive political entrepreneurs. Viktor Orbán is a brilliant nationalist and ideologue who could turn this crisis to his benefit quite connectedly. But there are also ways of trying to contain that pressure. It does depend on the underlying stability and structure of your political system.

Q: The connection between the 2008 financial crisis and the rise of far-right politics seems pretty intuitive. And yet, some resist it.

Several journalists have claimed that the book draws a line from 2008 to Trump, as though this was a straightforward thing. Of course this isn’t a straight line—this is complex modern history. This isn’t some cookie cutter correlation where you stick a bunch of variables and deduce one thing from the other. Good social science doesn’t do that anyway.

On the other hand, Occupy and the Tea Party were clearly a response to the financial crisis. Do we seriously think the 2016 presidential election would have been the same without the Tea Party and Occupy in the background? Definitely not. Steve Bannon’s entire construction of his politics comes out of 2008. And the fracturing and fissuring within the Republican party already manifested with their refusal to vote for TARP and for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts and their extraordinary partisanship in opposition to the stimulus.

Q: If it’s not a straight line, then what is it? If it’s not that the crisis discredited political elites, eventually leading to…

That I actually do buy. I think the crisis definitely broke the link between the Republican Party base and the Republican Party elite. And without that happening, it’s pretty difficult to see how Trump gets to be president. To me, that seems to be obvious. I think that’s true. I don’t see how you would argue about that. It happened to the Democrats too. The difference between them, in a sense, is that the Democratic Party elite managed to maintain control and the Republicans didn’t. And that shouldn’t be surprising, given their track record over the previous eight years.

Q: There’s a very a telling quote from Jean-Claude Juncker you use in the book: “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.” Is “post-truth” also one of the legacies of the crisis?

Absolutely. The post-truth problem didn’t start with Trump. Post-truth is endemic to any system which is as shot through with fundamental contradictions as ours is. Keynes has an absolutely brilliant analytic of post-truth in the aftermath of World War I. This is an endemic problem in societies that are as conflictual and contradictory as ours.

As you’ve correctly identified, the austerity move is a post-truth politics. I think the entire management of the eurozone crisis is post-truth politics. How else do we describe the current analyses of the debt sustainability of Greece, which do their very best to hide the fact that their sustainability assumptions require Greece to conform to fiscal discipline through 2064 or something? That’s just crazy.

The European Left in Disarray
By Loren Balhorn

Formally speaking, the European Parliament is the second-largest legislature in the world. Yet in reality its 751 members have little say in the nitty gritty of EU politics. It cannot initiate or pass EU-wide laws, but only modify or reject proposals coming from the European Commission, which is in turn appointed by the Council.

This is really the crux of the matter: despite its pretensions to the contrary, the European Union is not a particularly democratic institution. Most of its powerful posts are filled by appointment from above rather than elected by the population. Especially since the fiscal reforms enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, it often functions as a mere straitjacket, preventing individual member-states from breaking with the austerity imposed by budget control measures like the European Semester program.

From the outset, the structures that eventually became the EU were characterized by agreements brokered between elites, beginning with the European Coal and Steel Community drawn up by the political classes of West Germany, France, and a smattering of other states in the wake of World War II. Rather than a coherent federal entity with interlocking levels of authority, the EU has tended to grow and develop as circumstances allow, a product of improvisation and responses to external shocks.

For all these reasons, voters rightly see national politics as much more immediately relevant to their lives, and most write off what happens in Brussels as little more than wasteful tinkering by out-of-touch bureaucrats. This attitude is stronger than ever following the fallout of the 2008 crisis and the ongoing economic stagnation across most of the Union. Politicians of the center speak in passionate tones about “our Europe,” but everybody knows that, for better or worse, most voters aren’t particularly interested.

The political fallout of this turmoil has been a classic “crisis of representation,” whereby the traditional parties of government grow increasingly unpopular and are no longer able to command stable parliamentary majorities. The crisis has been most pronounced in countries like France, Greece, and the Netherlands where the center-left has collapsed almost entirely, clearing the way for new insurgent leaders on the Left, Right, and center.

Populism and the coming era of political paralysis in Europe
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Alina Polyakova

The populist-fueled fracturing of politics is bad news for democracy. Not only does such fragmentation make it difficult to form a government, but it also impedes the ability to unite around a common vision or reach consensus. Recent elections suggest that Europe is just at the beginning of a growing trend toward fragmentation. As the number of conflicting interests grows, it will become more difficult for European governments to effectively address complex challenges such as sluggish economic growth, immigration and ineffective armies. In other words, populist-fueled fragmentation will produce political stasis that will make it difficult for democracy to deliver.

Democracies are, by design, competitive and thus often messy. But the kind of political fragmentation taking place in Europe today is pushing the boundaries of useful debate and deliberation. As voters become increasingly frustrated with a lack of results, they will look to “more effective” strongman models of the type embodied by Russia and China. As the competition between democracy and authoritarianism intensifies, democracies must be able to deliver. Unfortunately, populist-fueled fragmentation will make that harder. At the end of the day, people may be willing to forgo some of their freedoms in exchange for governments they view as capable of delivering results.

Democracy undergoing ‘alarming’ decline around the world, study finds
By Adam Forrest

Ms Stenner believes those who wish to uphold liberal democracy need to change the way they think, talk and treat a section of society they have been too quick to demonise as “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton infamously described Mr Trump’s strongest supporters.

The political psychologist says the authoritarians’ views are “going to have to be more openly discussed, and must become part of the mainstream political conversation, or you’re going to keep getting this ugly, hysterical and outraged version of the conversation.

“If people can’t discuss their fears about immigration, if they can’t discuss the values they fear some newcomers might have, if they can’t discuss how much is too much – then these things get vocalised by people like Trump,” she added. “We have to understand this a fundamental aspect of society. It’s not intrinsically evil, but just another way of being human that we’ve often pretended doesn’t exist. A true democracy must ultimately attend to the needs of all its citizens.”

Freedom in the World 2019: Democracy in Retreat
By Freedom House

The end of the Cold War accelerated a dramatic wave of democratization that began as early as the 1970s. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 cleared the way for the formation or restoration of liberal democratic institutions not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. Between 1988 and 2005, the percentage of countries ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World dropped by almost 14 points (from 37 to 23 percent), while the share of Free countries grew (from 36 to 46 percent). This surge of progress has now begun to roll back. Between 2005 and 2018, the share of Not Free countries rose to 26 percent, while the share of Free countries declined to 44 percent.

The reversals may be a result of the euphoric expansion of the 1990s and early 2000s. As that momentum has worn off, many countries have struggled to accommodate the political swings and contentious debates intrinsic to democracy. Rapidly erected democratic institutions have come under sustained attack in nations that remain economically fragile or are still riven by deep-seated class or ethnic conflicts. Of the 23 countries that suffered a negative status change over the past 13 years (moving from Free to Partly Free, or Partly Free to Not Free), almost two-thirds (61 percent) had earned a positive status change after 1988. For example, Hungary, which became Free in 1990, fell back to Partly Free this year after five consecutive years of decline and 13 years without improvement.

With the post–Cold War transition period now over, another shift in the global order is challenging long-standing democracies, from within and without. A crisis of confidence in these societies has intensified, with many citizens expressing doubts that democracy still serves their interests. Of the 41 countries that were consistently ranked Free from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net score declines in the last five years.

The crisis is linked to a changing balance of power at the global level. The share of international power held by highly industrialized democracies is dwindling as the clout of China, India, and other newly industrialized economies increases. China’s rise is the most stunning, with GDP per capita increasing by 16 times from 1990 to 2017. The shift has been driven by a new phase of globalization that unlocked enormous wealth around the world. The distribution of benefits has been highly uneven, however, with most accruing to either the wealthiest on a global scale or to workers in industrializing countries. Low- and medium-skilled workers in long-industrialized democracies have gained relatively little from the expansion, as stable, well-paying jobs have been lost to a combination of foreign competition and technological change.

These developments have contributed to increasing anger and anxiety in Europe and the United States over economic inequality and loss of personal status. The center of the political spectrum, which dominated politics in the established democracies as the changes unfolded, failed to adequately address the disruption and dislocation they caused. This created political opportunities for new competitors on the left and right, who were able to cast existing elites as complicit in or benefiting from the erosion of citizens’ living standards and national traditions.

The Global Crisis of Democracy
By Larry Diamond

There is nothing inevitable about the expansion of democracy. Among countries with populations above one million, there were only 11 democracies in 1900, 20 in 1920 and 29 in 1974. Only for the past quarter of a century has democracy been the world’s predominant form of government. By 1993, the number of democracies had exploded to 77—representing, for the first time in history, a majority of countries with at least one million people. By 2006, the number of democracies had ticked up to 86.

But we are now at a precarious moment. Democracy faces a global crisis. We have seen 12 consecutive years of erosion in global levels of political rights and civil liberties, with many more countries declining than gaining each year, according to the nonprofit group Freedom House. Over the past decade, one in six democracies has failed. Today only a bare majority of the world’s larger states remain democracies.

Nor do the numbers capture the full extent of the danger. Behind the statistics is a steady, palpable corrosion of democratic institutions and norms in a range of countries. China, Russia and their admirers are making headway with a new global narrative, hailing strongman rule—not government by the people—as the way forward in difficult times.

Until recently, U.S. resolve had helped to hold back today’s main foes of democracy: an ambitious and rising China, a resentful and declining Russia, and a new wave of populist authoritarians from Hungary to the Philippines. Now, however, America’s own political decay is increasingly advanced. President Donald Trump has insulted U.S. allies, befriended Vladimir Putin, excused a grim list of other dictators, embraced nativist politics and movements, and shaken the post-World War II liberal order. But the problem also includes cynical politicians in both parties, calcified systems that don’t deliver public goods and complacent citizens who cannot bestir themselves to vote.

All of this is tarnishing the overall luster of democracy—and pulling America away from the world. If we do not soon reverse this U.S. retreat, democracy world-wide will be at risk.

The great divide: The civil wars gripping America’s political parties
By David Shribman

The early-20th-century Republicans were split over the extension of economic reform, and their late-20th-century successors were divided over the role of religious conservatives in the party. For much of the past century, the Democrats have split over race issues and, during the Vietnam period, over war policy.

But never before have both parties suffered at the same time the sort of major fissures that hobble the parties today, with a war raging between the GOP establishment and the Trump insurgency among the Republicans and with a death struggle between moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party, particularly among the nearly two dozen presidential candidates and over the issue of impeaching Mr. Trump.

“This is a very important development in a very unusual time, and it is not a good thing for the political system,” said Kathleen Iannello, a political scientist at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. “It adds instability to our politics, it creates even more tension at a time of real contention, and it alienates the public.”

“The natural state of the Democratic Party might actually be to argue,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice-president for policy at Third Way, an organization of moderate Democrats. “The people who vote for Democrats are moderates, but the activism and the money comes from the more progressive wing of the party. It produces a natural split that the Republicans ordinarily don’t have because usually the money, the activism and votes all come from the same place. Trump upended that, and that’s why we’re in a situation that probably has no precedent.”

The result is an unusual and toxic alchemy: hyperpartisanship at a time of party divisions.

Democracy isn’t dying. Liberalism is.
By Damon Linker

Across the world, democracy is delivering anti-liberal results. Liberals should be honest about what this means — among other things that they are failing to persuade sufficient numbers of voters to entrust them with power, and that this failure has begun to discredit the very norms and institutions that make our democracies liberal in the broader and deeper sense. The result is likely to be a spike in corruption and a decline in freedom for everyone who isn’t owed a favor by the ruling party.

How liberals might do a better job of persuading increasingly hostile voters to give them continued, or a renewed, chance at power is anyone’s guess. What’s not mysterious is how counter-productive it is when liberals respond to popular opposition by lashing out in condescension at the those who withhold their support. Whether such condescension takes the form of an epithet (“deplorables”) or an insinuation that voters are too stupid to recognize the wisdom of casting ballots for politicians who promise to enact liberal policies, it wounds pride and triggers a sense of dishonor among voters that can ensure a deepening of hostility to liberalism.

Liberalism and democracy have gone together for a long time. But there’s no guarantee the pairing will last — or that they can easily be brought back into alignment once the ties between them have been severed.

The Illiberal Temptation
By Gabriel Schoenfeld

Serious contemplation should be provoked by the convergence of the destructive anti-liberal philosophy of the New Left with the emerging anti-liberalism of contemporary conservative thinkers. Given the warm reception Deneen’s book has enjoyed at both ends of the political spectrum, it is plain that the sirens of an illiberal temptation are seductively beckoning. One is left wondering whether writings like Why Liberalism Failed will, as has been the case with Marcuse’s work, reverberate for decades, chipping away at the moral and intellectual foundation of the most humane socio-political order ever to grace the face of the earth. Without a doubt, as Deneen argues, radical individualism taken to an extreme carries the potential to undermine the social bonds necessary to sustain self-government and freedom; that is not in dispute. But conservative jeremiads that condemn liberal democracy as irredeemably flawed from its inception and which baselessly equate its institutions with those of the most bloodthirsty regimes in modern history damage the cause of freedom at a moment of liberal democracy’s mounting vulnerability.

Deneen professes to value liberty, but the liberty he values is distinct from what he calls our currently existing “ersatz version,” the primary negative achievement of which is combining “systematic powerlessness with the illusion of autonomy in the form of consumerist and sexual license.” If Deneen succeeds in his project of liberating us from liberalism root and branch, one trembles to contemplate what substitute will come in its place as the fruit of post-liberal “epic theorizing.” Given all the hard lessons we have learned over the last century about human nature and the fragility of civilization’s veneer, liberal democracy in a developed mass society is exceedingly unlikely to evolve into something resembling the quaint localism of the old-order Amish and far more at risk of lapsing into the kind of blood and soil nationalism that, here and abroad, we are watching take shape before our eyes.

Why American conservatism failed
By Fareed Zakaria

The fundamental flaw of modern conservatism is that it is unsure whether America today is a fallen republic or an astonishing success story. This confusion has produced a political crisis among conservatives, which might help explain the rise of Trump.

Ever since the 1930s, conservatives have been promising their flock the rollback of the progressive agenda. They have warned about the dangers of leaving the welfare state intact and pilloried conservative leaders for failing in this crucial task. Yet, despite the Reagan revolution, the Newt Gingrich revolution and the tea party revolution, the welfare state is still standing as strong as ever. Republicans dominate almost every arena of U.S. politics — and the state is bigger than ever. Should we chalk this up to incompetence? More likely, conservatives know that the public actually wants the welfare state and that a modern country could not function today under some libertarian fantasy experiment. Of course, they will never admit this.

In any case, the result is that conservative leaders left their base permanently aggrieved, feeling betrayed and distrustful of any new campaign promises. In recent years, as the fever grew, conservative voters became desperate for someone who had not played this game of bait-and-switch with them. And into this rage walked Trump, who easily toppled the old conservative establishment and rode the frustration with elites all the way to the White House.

The Secret Sources of Populism
By Bruno Maçães

In Russia, a Europeanized aristocracy existed in an entirely different world from the peasantry. They spoke French, listened to different music and songs, ate different food, and had a radically different view of religion and the ends of life. It was as two countries rather than as two classes that they looked at each other, plotting a final and decisive struggle over Russia’s soul.

Even in France, England, Germany, and the United States, a creeping sense of alienation was slowly developing between the classes, but it was of a different sort. Because these were the world’s ruling nations, elites assumed the responsibility of managing the affairs of foreign countries. Their outlook was more universal in character, although rooted in colonialism, and that created an inevitable distance with their compatriots.

Of course, as long as Western hegemony persisted, the spoils of empire flowed to the lower classes and reconciled them with those in power. But as the balance of power shifted, cosmopolitan elites appeared in a different light. It was implausible for them to dictate to the rest of the world from a position of growing weakness, and some had learned too well to incorporate the interests of the rest of humanity when formulating their positions. Today, many voters in Europe and the United States are starting to regard the elites as profoundly disconnected from what they see as the national interest. Distrust and alienation will keep growing.

If populism were really an attempt to resolve domestic problems, today’s leaders in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere might spend more time addressing corruption, inequality, or entrenched oligarchs. Instead, they’ve deepened those problems while describing a world in which European nations are in danger of disappearing, swamped by external forces they cannot control: immigration, terrorism, trade, and a global cabal of bureaucratic elites. Their promise is to return their citizens to a world in which Europe felt protected from external influences while still being able to exert power over everyone else.

Populist leaders and those who vote for them are frightened of the rise of the rest, with immigration appearing to them as colonization in reverse. Immigration has been the main fodder for anti-establishment populists so far, but we should expect its impact to pale by comparison to the next wave of influence from the rest of the world, particularly from China and from economic interdependence.

In politics as in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As what used to be called the Third World acquires the ability to change political and economic outcomes in the West, voters and political parties will increasingly call for an organized response to stop, minimize, or at the least control that influence. Western populism is impossible to understand as a direct result of domestic problems. Rather, it is a reaction to the global redistribution of power that is still taking shape.

The Self-Destruction of American Power
By Fareed Zakaria

The 9/11 attacks and the rise of Islamic terrorism played a dual role in the decline of U.S. hegemony. At first, the attacks seemed to galvanize Washington and mobilize its power. In 2001, the United States, still larger economically than the next five countries put together, chose to ramp up its annual defense spending by an amount—almost $50 billion—that was larger than the United Kingdom’s entire yearly defense budget. When Washington intervened in Afghanistan, it was able to get overwhelming support for the campaign, including from Russia. Two years later, despite many objections, it was still able to put together a large international coalition for an invasion of Iraq. The early years of this century marked the high point of the American imperium, as Washington tried to remake wholly alien nations—Afghanistan and Iraq—thousands of miles away, despite the rest of the world’s reluctant acquiescence or active opposition.

Iraq in particular marked a turning point. The United States embarked on a war of choice despite misgivings expressed in the rest of world. It tried to get the UN to rubber-stamp its mission, and when that proved arduous, it dispensed with the organization altogether. It ignored the Powell Doctrine—the idea, promulgated by General Colin Powell while he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, that a war was worth entering only if vital national interests were at stake and overwhelming victory assured. The Bush administration insisted that the vast challenge of occupying Iraq could be undertaken with a small number of troops and a light touch. Iraq, it was said, would pay for itself. And once in Baghdad, Washington decided to destroy the Iraqi state, disbanding the army and purging the bureaucracy, which produced chaos and helped fuel an insurgency. Any one of these mistakes might have been overcome. But together they ensured that Iraq became a costly fiasco.

After 9/11, Washington made major, consequential decisions that continue to haunt it, but it made all of them hastily and in fear. It saw itself as in mortal danger, needing to do whatever it took to defend itself—from invading Iraq to spending untold sums on homeland security to employing torture. The rest of the world saw a country that was experiencing a kind of terrorism that many had lived with for years and yet was thrashing around like a wounded lion, tearing down international alliances and norms. In its first two years, the George W. Bush administration walked away from more international agreements than any previous administration had. (Undoubtedly, that record has now been surpassed under President Donald Trump.) American behavior abroad during the Bush administration shattered the moral and political authority of the United States, as long-standing allies such as Canada and France found themselves at odds with it on the substance, morality, and style of its foreign policy.

U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars that killed 500,000 people since 9/11, a report says
By Tom O’Connor

Overall, researchers estimated that “between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the United States’ post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” This toll “does not include the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011” when a West-backed rebel and jihadi uprising challenged the government, an ally of Russia and Iran. That same year, the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance intervened in Libya and helped insurgents overthrow longtime leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, leaving the nation in an ongoing state of civil war.

The combined human cost for the U.S. throughout its actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan was 6,951 troops, 21 civilians and 7,820 contractors.

“While we often know how many US soldiers die, most other numbers are to a degree uncertain. Indeed, we may never know the total direct death toll in these wars. For example, tens of thousands of civilians may have died in retaking Mosul and other cities from ISIS but their bodies have likely not been recovered,” the report noted.

“In addition, this tally does not include ‘indirect deaths.’ Indirect harm occurs when wars’ destruction leads to long term, ‘indirect,’ consequences for people’s health in war zones, for example because of loss of access to food, water, health facilities, electricity or other infrastructure,” it added.

George Takei: ‘At Least During the Internment … I Was Not Taken from My Parents.’
By George Takei

When a government acts capriciously, especially against a powerless and much-reviled group, it is hard to describe the terror and anxiety. There is nowhere to turn, because the only people with the power to help have trained their guns and dogs upon you. You are without rights, held without charge or trial. The world is upside down, information-less, and indifferent or even hostile to your plight.

And yet, with hideous irony, I can still say, “At least during the internment …”

At least during the internment, when I was just 5 years old, I was not taken from my parents. My family was sent to a racetrack for several weeks to live in a horse stall, but at least we had each other. At least during the internment, my parents were able to place themselves between the horror of what we were facing and my own childish understanding of our circumstances. They told us we were “going on a vacation to live with the horsies.” And when we got to Rohwer camp, they again put themselves between us and the horror, so that we would never fully appreciate the grim reality of the mosquito-infested swamp into which we had been thrown. At least during the internment, we remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul.

I cannot for a moment imagine what my childhood would have been like had I been thrown into a camp without my parents. That this is happening today fills me with both rage and grief: rage toward a failed political leadership who appear to have lost even their most basic humanity, and a profound grief for the families affected.

I wish that those, like me, who lived through this nightmare before didn’t have to sound the alarm again. But as my father once told me, America is a great nation but also a fallible one — as prone to great mistakes as are the people who inhabit it. As a survivor of internment camps, I have made it my lifelong mission to work against them being built ever again within our borders.

Although the first camps for border crossers have been built, and are now filling up with innocent children, we have a chance to ensure history does not repeat itself in full, to demonstrate that we have learned from our past and to stand firmly against our worse natures. The internment happened because of fear and hatred, but also because of a failure of political leadership. In 1941, there were few politicians who dared stand up to the internment order. I am hopeful that today there will, should be, must be, far more people who speak up, both among our leaders and the public, and that the future writes the history of our resistance — not, yet again, of our compliance.

Trump is straining democracy at home and around the world
By Michael Abramowitz

The president’s attacks on the judiciary and the media, his resistance to anticorruption constraints and his unfounded claims of voting fraud by the opposition are tactics familiar to foreign autocrats and populist demagogues who seek to subvert checks on their power.

Such leaders take heart from Trump’s bitter feuding with the United States’ traditional democratic allies and his reluctance to uphold the nation’s collective defense treaties, which have helped guarantee international security for decades. The president has refused to advocate American democratic values overseas, and he seems to encourage the forces that oppose them. His frequent praise for some of the world’s worst dictators reinforces this perception.

The effects of his actions are visible around the globe. Cambodian strongman Hun Sen consolidated one-party rule in sham elections last summer after banning the main opposition party and shutting down independent media. He said he shared Trump’s views of journalists, saying, “Donald Trump understands that they are an anarchic group.” Polish President Andrzej Duda, whose party has sought to annihilate judicial independence and assert control over the media, has similarly thanked Trump for fighting “fake news.” Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, almost certainly ordered the assassination of a leading journalistic critic, apparently believing that doing so would not rupture relations with the president of the United States. It seems he was correct.

Democracy in Crisis
By Gary J. Bass

Today Trump fawns over Putin, Kim Jong-un, Mohammed bin Salman and other thugs, driven less by realpolitik necessity than by personal affinity. After just one year of Trump’s presidency, a Gallup poll found that the median approval of American leadership across 134 countries had cratered to just 30 percent — four points below that of George W. Bush in his last year, which priced in the Iraq war. If the universal principles of liberal democracy are going to be revived, that will require not just American renewal under a less squalid president, but the leadership of a multitude of free republics spanning India, Japan, Germany, South Korea, France, Britain and South Africa.

Whether in Taiwan, Mongolia or Ghana, people like their rulers to be lawful, accountable and disposable. Dictatorships will always have to fear their people as they get richer and better educated; tyrannical regimes can always splinter; and courageous opposition leaders will always rise up (though not, it would seem, in the Republican Party).

Liberal World Order, R.I.P.
By Richard N. Haass

But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US. Under President Donald Trump, the US decided against joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. It has threatened to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. It has unilaterally introduced steel and aluminum tariffs, relying on a justification (national security) that others could use, in the process placing the world at risk of a trade war. It has raised questions about its commitment to NATO and other alliance relationships. And it rarely speaks about democracy or human rights. “America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.

My point is not to single out the US for criticism. Today’s other major powers, including the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan, could be criticized for what they are doing, not doing, or both. But the US is not just another country. It was the principal architect of the liberal world order and its principal backer. It was also a principal beneficiary.

America’s decision to abandon the role it has played for more than seven decades thus marks a turning point. The liberal world order cannot survive on its own, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.

A Hinge in History?
By Larry Diamond

As a result, the next two years threaten to be one of the most perilous periods for the United States since the end of World War II. The rising and resurgent great powers—China and Russia—see in Donald Trump a transactional president, detached from the guiding principles and steadfast alliances that have fostered and protected freedom for 75 years. For the moment, China is paying the price in an escalating and potentially quite damaging trade war, but if it is able to negotiate a grand transaction with Trump, it may also clear a path to more rapid dominance in Asia. Trump talks a big game about putting America first, but for him, it’s really all about money, not even power and certainly not global leadership in defense of enduring values.

The Rest of the World Knows Pax Americana Is Over
By Gallup

Should leaders care what the world thinks of them? How much does soft power matter? And does it matter more or less than it has in the past?

Bremmer: Should they? Probably. It makes their lives easier on the international stage if their countries are well-liked, and leaders play an important part in their country’s likability. But the political realities of the 21st century mean that soft power really only matters at the margins anymore. For example — are countries signing up for Belt and Road because they like the Chinese or because they need the money Beijing is offering for infrastructure upgrades? Obviously the latter.

Soft power matters a heck of a lot less than it used to — when Hollywood was the only one making movies, that made a big difference in the perceptions people had of the U.S. But in today’s fracturing media/tech environment, people have so many options that it’s impossible to imagine any one country/industry having the sway that they once did.

Warnings From Versailles
By Margaret MacMillan

We often recall World War I and the two decades that followed as a grim chapter of history, the prelude to an even costlier and more destructive war from 1939 to 1945. We remember terrible losses—the nine million or more dead in battle, the civilians who died of preventable disease or starvation, the ghastly influenza epidemic that, in the dying days of the war and the shaky first moments of peace, may have carried off as many as 50 million around the world. We think of a Europe that once led the world in wealth, innovation, and political power, only to emerge from the war diminished, its Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires in tatters, Bolshevism and ethnic nationalism threatening more upheaval and misery.

Yet when the Allies gathered at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles 100 years ago, from January to June 1919, the time was also one of hope. The Allied leaders promised their own peoples a better world in recompense for all they had suffered, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made of those promises a crusade for humankind: a War to End All Wars, a World Safe for Democracy. Wilson’s League of Nations was meant to create an international community of democratic nations. By providing collective security for one another, they would not only end aggression but build a fairer and more prosperous world. These ideas drew support around the globe—from Europe, where Wilson was greeted as a savior, to the West’s colonies, and even in struggling nations such as China.

But the world was to discover that making peace endure was a matter not just of hopes and ideas but of will, determination, and persistence. Leaders need to negotiate as well as to inspire; to be capable of seeing past short-term political gains; and to balance the interests of their nations against those of the international community. For want of such leadership, among other things, the promise of 1918 soon turned into the disillusionment, division, and aggression of the 1930s.

This outcome was not foreordained at Versailles. Although some of the decisions made upon ending the war in 1919 certainly fueled populist demagoguery and inspired dreams of revenge, the calamity of World War II owed as much to the failure of the democracies’ leaders in the interwar decades to deal with rule-breaking dictators such as Mussolini, Hitler, and the Japanese militarists. A century later, similar forces—ethnic nationalism, eroding international norms and cooperation, and vindictive chauvinism—and authoritarian leaders willing to use them are again appearing. The past is an imperfect teacher, its messages often obscure or ambiguous, but it offers both guidance and warning.

Although it was never as isolationist as some have claimed, the United States turned inward soon after the Paris Peace Conference. Congress rejected the Treaty of Versailles and, by extension, the League of Nations. It also failed to ratify the guarantee given to France that the United Kingdomand the United States would come to its defense if Germany attacked. Americans became all the more insular as the calamitous Great Depression hit and their attention focused on their domestic troubles.

The United States’ withdrawal encouraged the British—already distracted by troubles brewing in the empire—to renege on their commitment to the guarantee. France, left to itself, attempted to form the new and quarreling states in Central Europe into an anti-German alliance, but its attempts turned out to be as ill-fated as the Maginot Line in the west. One wonders how history might have unfolded if London and Washington, instead of turning away, had built a transatlantic alliance with a strong security commitment to France and pushed back against Adolf Hitler’s first aggressive moves while there was still time to stop him.

Again, the post-1945 world was different from the one that emerged in 1919. The United States, now the world’s leading power, joined the United Nations and the economic institutions set up at Bretton Woods. It also committed itself to the security and reconstruction of western Europe and Japan. Congress approved these initiatives in part because President Franklin Delano Rooseveltmade building the postwar order a bipartisan enterprise—unlike Wilson, who doomed the League of Nations by alienating the Republicans. Wilson’s failure had encouraged the isolationist strain in U.S.foreign policy; Roosevelt, followed by Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, countered and contained that impulse. The specter of communism also did its part by alarming even the isolationists. The establishment of the Soviet empire in eastern Europe, and Soviet rhetoric about the coming struggle against capitalism, persuaded many Americans that they faced a pressing danger that required continued engagement with allies in Europe and Asia.

Today’s world is not wholly comparable to the worlds that emerged from the rubble of the two world wars. Yet as the United States once again turns inward and tends only to its immediate interests, it risks ignoring or underestimating the rise of populist dictators and aggressive powers until the hour is dangerously late. President Vladimir Putin of Russia has already violated international rules and norms, most notably in Crimea, and others—such as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or Chinese President Xi Jinping—seem willing to do the same. And as Washington and other democratic powers abdicate their responsibility for the world, smaller powers may abandon their hopes for a peaceful international order and instead submit to the bullies in their neighborhoods. A hundred years on, 1919 and the years that followed still stand as a somber warning.

Democracy in Decline?
By Loren Lomasky

Very possibly these fears are overstated. Generalizing from a limited number of cases is hazardous. Then again, the number has not really been so limited. To be sure, it is statistically normal to see occasional bunchings of anomalous cases, whether it is hurricanes, 50–1 shots galloping home first, suicides, or political upsets. It is not, however, merely the numbers but rather what can be discerned as underlying these episodes that ought to give one pause. Economic, political, and epistemic disturbants have grown in force and do not show signs of abating. This is not a call to raise the white flags, but any end-of-history triumphalism based on very recent experience is out of place. Although hindsight flattens out terrors of previous days, the rise of dictators in the 1930s was not so very long ago, and not until 1989 did totalitarianism offer clear indications of being on its way out.

Moreover, unlike during these earlier periods, a competitor presents itself to many as an appealing alternative to democratic liberalism. Compared to Nazi Germany, China seems positively cuddly, and its ratio of millionaires to gulag prisoners is many times greater than the Soviet Union ever achieved. As democracies fray further around the edges, attraction to the Chinese model and other illiberalisms can be expected to wax. It gives me no pleasure to conclude with an admission that even we Churchillians have grounds for concern that the 21st century may not be kind to our cause.

Why the World Wants Democracy but Not Necessarily the American Version
By Ian Bremmer

The survey found that in wealthy countries, opposition to President Trump and perceptions of income inequality drove unfavorable opinions of the U.S. Respondents overwhelmingly favor democracy as practiced in their own countries. Those in ­emerging-market democracies dislike the active role the U.S. sometimes plays in other countries, but they say that U.S. democracy safeguards the rule of law more effectively than their own democracies do. Most citizens in authoritarian countries do not like U.S. foreign policy, but they do want greater political freedom in their own countries.

The findings from these countries suggest that while democracy remains a popular aspiration around the world, “attraction” will prove more effective than “promotion” as a way to help democracy expand.

The report argues that the U.S. has made four main mistakes in fostering democracy abroad. U.S. policy­makers have focused on the laws and institutions of other countries but not their political cultures. They’ve assumed that people will forgo near-term security and stability for the chance to vote. They’ve used military intervention to promote democratic values without accounting for the problems this approach creates. And they’ve ignored the values and interests of those they hope to persuade.

The survey also finds that allowing foreign-born people to study and live in the U.S. can help to promote democracy: support for American ideas of democracy is driven largely by immigration and direct connections to diaspora communities. People who report having had family members or close friends who have lived in America in the past five years are significantly more likely to have positive views.

That’s one reason U.S. policy­makers would be more successful if they found the modesty to promote democracy around the world without the explicit American packaging and with the humility to acknowledge that the U.S. has often failed to live up to democracy’s highest ideals. Democracy’s appeal comes in the power it gives individuals to set their own course. America should accept that each country will need to find its own path to adopt democracy.

Decades of Being Wrong About China Should Teach Us Something
By Amy Zegart

If you were an economist in the early years after World War II, the Nobel laureate Michael Spence has pointed out, you would have predicted that African nations were more likely to develop faster than China because they had greater natural-resource wealth. And you would have been dead wrong. In 1960, the average GDP per capita in the Democratic Republic of Congo was $220, about twice the per capita GDP in both Nigeria and China. By 2017, China’s GDP per capita had skyrocketed to nearly $9,000—more than four times that of Nigeria and 19 times greater than Congo’s. Since the Chinese government embarked on its modernization program, in 1978, Beijing has lifted more than 850 million people out of poverty and sustained the fastest economic growth in human history.

China’s domestic political system has also defied predictions. Many declared that China would eventually go the way of the other “Asian tigers”—Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea—which became more democratic as they grew rich. That never happened. And when the democratic wave swept across the communist world from 1989 to 1991, ending the Cold War and leading some to declare that the “end of history” had arrived, it skipped China. With dizzying speed, the Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany were reunified, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Iron Curtain tumbled, and all the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe were replaced by democratically elected governments. The communist old guard was ousted just about everywhere except Beijing. When China’s moment of reckoning came, Communist Party leaders chose bullets, not ballots. And they made a long-shot, long-term Faustian deal to guarantee economic development in exchange for continued party control that has lasted ever since.

The Legacy of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China
By Ian Bremmer

In 1989, when adjusted for differences in purchasing power, China’s economy generated just 4.11% of global GDP. Today it’s 19.24%. There is an obvious human dimension to this success. Market reform in China has undeniably lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. Nearly two-thirds of the population lived on $1.90 per day or less in 1990. In 2015, it was less than 1%. Per capita income increased by more than 900% over that period, and infant mortality rates fell by more than 80%.

Thirty years after the murders in Tiananmen Square, China presents a contradictory legacy. Its leadership has provided opportunities for a better life to a larger number of people than any government in history. And China remains a police state, where citizens can’t publicly acknowledge that this mass murder ever took place.

At the Tiananmen Massacre, a Rescuer Pleads to Me: Tell the World!
By Nicholas Kristof

My memories of the massacre in Beijing are not only of government savagery but also of unparalleled courage on the part of the most humble citizens. I will never forget the rickshaw drivers, for whenever there was a pause in the gunfire, they would pedal their three-wheeled bicycle carts out toward the troops to pick up the wounded and rush them to the nearest hospital.

I particularly recall one burly rickshaw driver. He had a couple of bleeding people on the back of his cart and was pedaling furiously, his legs straining. He saw me and swerved toward me so that I could bear witness to his government’s brutality. As he passed, he pleaded with me: Tell the world!

And tears were streaming down his cheeks.

He was probably a peasant from the countryside with little education, and he might not have been able to define democracy — but he was risking his life for it.

30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget
By Chris Buckley

Ms. Jiang’s account has a wider significance: She sheds new light on how military commanders tried to resist orders to use armed force to clear protesters from the square they had taken over for seven weeks, captivating the world.

The students’ impassioned idealism, hunger strikes, rebukes of officials and grandiose gestures like building a “Goddess of Democracy” on the square drew an outpouring of public sympathy and left leaders divided on how to respond.

She described her role in spreading word of a letter from senior generals opposing martial law, and gave details of other letters from commanders who warned the leadership not to use troops in Beijing. And she saw on the streets how soldiers who carried out the party’s orders shot indiscriminately as they rushed to retake Tiananmen Square.

Even after 30 years, the massacre remains one of the most delicate topics in Chinese politics, subjected to a sustained and largely successful effort by the authorities to erase it from history. The party has ignored repeated calls to acknowledge that it was wrong to open fire on the students and residents, and resisted demands for a full accounting of how many died.

The authorities regularly detain former protest leaders and the parents of students and residents killed in the crackdown. A court convicted four men in southwestern China this year for selling bottles of liquor that referred to the Tiananmen crackdown.

When the World Opened the Gates of China
By Bob Davis

Henry Rowen, chairman of the Reagan administration’s National Intelligence Council, forecast in 1999 that China would “join the club of nations well along the road to democracy” in 2015, when he expected its per capita GDP to reach $7,000. As it turned out, China hit that mark two years sooner than he had predicted, but even now, it is far from being a democracy.

A coalition of labor, environmental and human-rights groups opposed China’s admission to the WTO. Robert Scott, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-backed research group, cranked out alarming numbers. In 2000, he forecast that nearly a million U.S. manufacturing jobs would be lost to Chinese competition.

A study by the MIT economist David Autor and colleagues calculated that Chinese competition cost the U.S. some 2.4 million jobs between 1999 and 2011, battering factory towns that made labor-intensive goods.

Nor did China open up politically, as many WTO advocates had hoped. Beijing tamed the internet by limiting its use to commerce, technology and social media. It blocked political organizing by threatening and sometimes jailing those who posted critical comments. More recently, it has turned the internet itself into an instrument of the state by using it to identify and track dissidents. “It’s Orwellian,” says Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor and China specialist.

China Said It Closed Muslim Detention Camps. There’s Reason to Doubt That.
By Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers

In late July, the government said most detainees had been released from the indoctrination camps built to eliminate what it described as the threat of Islamic radicalism and antigovernment sentiment among the overwhelmingly Muslim population of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region in China’s northwest.

But reporters from The New York Times found, over seven days of traveling through the region, that the vast network of detention camps erected by the government of China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, continues to operate, and even expand.

These camps, large and small, remain swaddled in heavy security and secrecy, despite the Chinese government’s new pledge of transparency. There are five major ones around Hotan, a city in southern Xinjiang, including the one where Mr. Kebayir said he was detained. Recent satellite images showed that a new detention facility has risen in the desert across the road from his former camp, surrounded by high walls and telltale watchtowers.

Efforts by Times reporters to approach the camps, factories and other religious sites were repeatedly blocked by plainclothes security officials — often giving outlandish explanations. Men claiming to be construction workers pulled power cables across the road near the camp where Mr. Kebayir was held and said the scene was too dangerous for anyone to pass. (When the reporters were later some distance away, the road promptly reopened.)

Since last year, evidence has also pointed to a system of forced labor linked to the camps. Factories being built nearby provide a place to transfer detainees whom officials consider sufficiently “reformed,” like Mr. Kebayir now, while keeping them under government supervision. Critics say this is simply another form of subjugation.

“I always thought the government was backing itself into a corner with its policies in Xinjiang,” said Sean R. Roberts, a professor at George Washington University who studies the region. “I can’t imagine that the process of backing out of it is going to be very quick at all.”

Chinese Dissidents Feel Heat of Beijing’s Wrath. Even in Canada.
By Catherine Porter

Sheng Xue is the pen name for 57-year-old Zang Xihong. The attacks have left her name — and health — in tatters.

“I escaped Tiananmen Square in China,” she said one winter day sitting in the living room of her suburban bungalow outside Toronto. “I thought I’d have a safe, happy life in Canada.”

But the Communist Party, she said, “was already here.”

The smears cannot be definitively linked to the Chinese government, experts say.

However in Canada, security experts have warned for years about the growing influence of Beijing not only on Chinese expatriates but on the government itself. In 2010, the head of Canada’s intelligence service shocked the country by declaring that the Chinese Communist Party had “agents of influence” in local governments.

And in 2017, a confidential report prepared by the Canadian branch of Amnesty International alerted the authorities to the harassment of Chinese-Canadian activists, the scale of which appeared “consistent with a coordinated, Chinese state-sponsored campaign.”

Statement in Response to Report the FBI is Urging Universities to Monitor Chinese Students and Scholars

According to recent public reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other government officials have advised some U.S. universities to develop protocols for monitoring students and scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions. This move seemingly stems from growing suspicion that the Chinese government is engaged in espionage of American higher education, with the aim of stealing data and intellectual property. However, this is an area where the government must tread carefully.

More than 340,000 Chinese students are reportedly studying in the United States, as of last year. If not conducted with care, this move risks hampering the future recruitment of talented foreign students and scholars to American shores. This move could also significantly impede the training of new scientists, as well as damage ongoing projects. The pursuit of scientific knowledge should be advanced under conditions of intellectual freedom without political or ideological restrictions.

A New Red Scare Is Reshaping Washington
By Ana Swanson

Susan Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California at San Diego, said the United States is at risk of being gripped by “an anti-Chinese version of the Red Scare” that is driving Chinese talent away and could rupture what little good will is left between the two countries.

“We’ve made this mistake once before, during the Cold War,” Ms. Shirk said. “And I don’t think we should make it again.”

Chinese nationals and Americans of Chinese heritage say they have felt the chilling effects. Some suspect they are being passed over for promotions and grants. Supporters of engagement have been dismissed as apologists or even traitors.

“Chinese Americans feel targeted,” said Charlie Woo, chief executive of Megatoys and a member of the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese-Americans. “And that’s really hurtful.”

The Trump administration and the Committee on the Present Danger have been careful to say their targets are the Chinese government and the Communist Party, not the Chinese people. But the distinction can be a difficult one to make. In the rush to protect against new threats from China, the line between preparedness and paranoia is sometimes unclear.

At a Senate hearing last year, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said the Trump administration was trying to “view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat, but a whole-of-society threat,” adding, “I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us.”

Many Chinese people and their defenders have bristled at the implication that the entire Chinese society poses a national security threat.

Toby Smith, vice president for policy at the Association for American Universities, said that American universities were working hard to remain vigilant to espionage threats, but that they thrive on openness and access to talent and science from around the world — including from China.

“The situation with China is different than the Cold War,” he said. “The concern with the Soviet Union was primarily military. Now it’s a concern about economic competitiveness.”

Is It Too Late to Stop a New Cold War With China?
By Stephen Wertheim

A new cold war could plunge the United States back into gruesome proxy wars around the world and risk a still deadlier war among the great powers.

Liberal hawks will say the survival of freedom is on the line. One wishes them luck: Having proved powerless to stop Mr. Trump’s rise, they hope to control China’s and bend what follows to their will. A cold war will more likely propel than diminish the forces of illiberalism. Demagogues like Mr. Trump will find it easy to swap the “red scare” for the “yellow peril” and accumulate power to keep the nation safe.

In 1946, Henry Wallace, President Truman’s Commerce Secretary, cautioned that America should stop rearming and acquiring bases around the world. These actions would make the Soviets insecure, ensuring the conflict they meant to prevent. “To other nations,” he counseled, “our foreign policy consists not only of the principles that we advocate but of the actions we take.” Mr. Truman asked Mr. Wallace to resign, and the superpowers launched the first Cold War. Will we avoid a second?

A Conversation with Francis Fukuyama
By Yoshikazu Kato

Kato: It seems to me that the Chinese have historically placed great importance on the idea of “strong states, strong government, and strong leaders.” We see this reflected in the high reputation of Xi Jinping, who has emerged as the most authoritative Chinese leader in recent times. What’s your take on this, taking into account the three things you’ve described as the basic components of a modern political order: the state, rule of law, and democratic accountability? Do you see Chinese politics continuing to develop only in the sense of China becoming a strong state, but neglecting the rule of law and democratic accountability? And is this sustainable?

Fukuyama: The classic problem of Chinese politics that has never been solved is the problem of the “bad emperor.” In a system with a strong state but no rule of law or democracy, a good emperor can move quickly to implement policies, more quickly than in a liberal democracy. But what guarantees the continuing supply of good emperors? A bad emperor can do much more damage in such a system than in one with checks and balances. At the moment, Xi is accumulating a great deal of personal power, and seems to be breaking out of the consensus for collective leadership that was formed after 1978. But we do not know what his intentions are in the long run—he could become a great reformer, or he could become something considerably worse.

Kato: I agree completely with your observation. My further question is: could the checks-and-balances mechanism resolve the classic problem in Chinese politics while working within the confines of Chinese-style meritocracy within the CCP or “democracy within the party”? What I mean is, would these be institutionally sufficient in preventing the rise of a “bad emperor”?

Fukuyama: I’m not sure that these mechanisms would be sufficient to check a bad emperor, since the question of who would check the party itself would remain. China needs multiple checks, beginning with law and rules to regularize the party’s behavior. Democracy within the party would be a down payment on real democracy, but not sufficient in itself to lead to accountable government.

Kato: How do you evaluate the survival of the authoritarian political system in China since the collapse of the Soviet Union with regard to your “end of history” theory? … From your point of view, how much will China factor into the future development of political discourse around the world?

Fukuyama: China poses the most important challenge to the idea of the end of history, insofar as it is an authoritarian semi-capitalist system that has mastered economic modernization and may become the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country. The issue is whether that system is sustainable over the long run. There are a number of reasons for thinking that it is not, beginning with the challenge of dealing with the enormous social stresses that have appeared as a result of modernization. But if China manages these stresses and remains strong and stable for another generation, then I think there is in fact a real alternative to liberal democracy.

China’s New Revolution
By Elizabeth C. Economy

Meanwhile, Xi has moved China further away from its traditional commitment to a low-profile foreign policy, accelerating a shift begun by his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Under Xi, China now actively seeks to shape international norms and institutions and forcefully asserts its presence on the global stage. As Xi colorfully put it in a 2014 speech, China should be capable of “constructing international playgrounds”— and “creating the rules” of the games played on them.

Xi’s most notable gambit on this front is his Belt and Road Initiative, a modern incarnation of the ancient Silk Road and maritime spice routes. Launched in 2013, the undertaking now encompasses as many as 900 projects, more than 80 percent of which are contracted to Chinese firms. But the effort goes far beyond mere infrastructure. In Pakistan, for example, the plan includes not only railroads, highways, and dams but also a proposal to develop a system of video and Internet surveillance similar to that in Beijing and a partnership with a Pakistani television channel to disseminate Chinese media content. The Belt and Road Initiative has also given China an opportunity to advance its military objectives. Chinese state-owned enterprises now run at least 76 ports and terminals out of 34 countries, and in Greece, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, Chinese investment in ports has been followed by high-profile visits from Chinese naval vessels. Beijing has also announced that it will be establishing special arbitration courts for Belt and Road Initiative projects, thereby using the plan to promote an alternative legal system underpinned by Chinese rules.

Indeed, China is increasingly seeking to export its political values across the globe. In Ethiopia and Sudan, for example, the CCP is training officials on how to manage public opinion and the media, offering advice on what legislation to pass and which monitoring and surveillance technologies to use. Perhaps the most noteworthy effort is China’s campaign to promote its vision of a closed Internet. Under the banner of “cyber-sovereignty,” Beijing has promulgated the idea that countries should be allowed to, as one official document explained, “choose their own path of cyber development, model of cyber regulation and Internet public policies.” It has pushed for negotiations about Internet governance that would privilege states and exclude representatives from civil society and the private sector, and it hosts an annual conference to convince foreign officials and businesspeople of its view of the Internet.

China also dangles access to its massive domestic market to coerce corporations to play by its rules. In 2017, for example, Apple was convinced to open a data center in China in order to comply with new rules requiring foreign firms to store certain data inside the country (where it will presumably be easier to monitor). That same year, the company removed from its app store hundreds of programs that helped people get around the Great Firewall.

Ironically, for all the talk of sovereignty, part of Xi’s more assertive foreign policy involves unquestionable violations of it. The government’s Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms, which purvey Chinese language and culture abroad, have come under increasing scrutiny in the United States and elsewhere for spreading CCP propaganda, although they probably pose a lesser threat to U.S. interests than is commonly thought. More challenging is China’s effort to mobilize its overseas communities, particularly students, to protest visits by the Dalai Lama, inform on Chinese studying abroad who do not follow the CCP line, and vociferously represent the government’s position on sensitive issues such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. This effort contributes to a climate of intimidation and fear within the Chinese overseas student community (not to mention the broader university community), and it threatens to tar all Chinese students as representatives of the Chinese government. Of even greater concern, Chinese security officials have on several occasions abducted former Chinese nationals who are now citizens of other countries. After a Chinese Swedish bookseller was snatched from a train in China and detained earlier this year, the state-supported Global Times editorialized, “European countries and the U.S. should educate their newly naturalized citizens that the new passport cannot be their amulet in China.”

First, Xi is playing a long game. His preference for control over competition often leads to policies that appear suboptimal in the short run. For example, his centralization of power and anticorruption campaign have slowed decision-making at the top of the Chinese political system, which in turn has led to paralysis at local levels of governance and lower rates of economic growth. Yet such policies have a long-term payoff. Chinese leaders tolerate the inefficiencies that come with nonmarket policies—say, slow Internet connections or money-losing state-owned enterprises— not only because the policies enhance their own political power but also because they afford them the luxury of making longerterm strategic investments. Thus, for example, the government encourages state-owned enterprises to invest in high-risk economies in support of the Belt and Road Initiative, in order to gain controlling stakes in strategic ports or set technical standards, such as railway track gauges or types of satellite navigation systems, for the next wave of global economic development. Decisions that may appear immediately irrational in the context of a liberal political system and a market economy often have a longer-term strategic logic within China.

Second, although he harbors ambitions on the global stage, Xi has only rarely demonstrated true global leadership, in the sense of showing a willingness to align his country’s interests with—or even subordinate them to—those of the broader international community. With a few exceptions, such as when it comes to UN peacekeeping contributions, China steps up to provide global public goods only when doing so serves its own short-term interests or when it has been pressured to do so. Moreover, it is increasingly seeking to ignore established norms and set its own rules of the road. In 2016, when the International Court of Arbitration rejected Chinese claims to wide swaths of the South China Sea, Beijing simply dismissed the ruling and carried on with its land-reclamation and militarization efforts there.

Does China’s third revolution have staying power? History is certainly not on Xi’s side. Despite a weakening of democratic institutions in some parts of the world, all the major economies—save China—are democracies. And it is possible to map out, as many scholars have, potential paths to a Chinese democratic transition. One route is through an economic crisis, which could produce a demand for change. China’s economy is showing signs of strain, with Chinese household, corporate, and government debt as a proportion of GDP all having skyrocketed since the 2008 global financial crisis. Some Chinese economists argue that the country faces a sizable challenge from its rapidly aging population and massively underfunded pension system, coupled with its persistently low birthrate, even after the end of the one-child policy.

It’s also conceivable that Xi could overreach. At home, discontent with his repressive policies has spread within large parts of China’s business and intellectual communities. The number of labor protests has more than doubled during his tenure. Moreover, although often forgotten in China’s current political environment, the country is not without its champions of democracy. Prominent scholars, activists, journalists, retired officials, and wealthy entrepreneurs have all spoken out in favor of democratic reform in the recent past. At the same time, Xi’s move to eliminate term limits stirred a great deal of controversy within top political circles. As Chinese officials have admitted to the press, there have even been coup and assassination attempts against Xi.

Abroad, Beijing’s aggressive efforts to expand its influence have been met with frequent backlashes. In just the past year, widespread protests against Chinese investments have erupted in Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Sri Lanka. As China presses forward with its more ambitious foreign policy, more such instances will undoubtedly crop up, raising the prospect that Xi will been seen as failing abroad, thus undermining his authority at home.

Is this the end of the American century?
By Adam Tooze

The emerging American strategy is to use threats of trade policy sanctions and aggressive counter-espionage in the tech arena, combined with a ramping up of America’s military effort, to force Beijing to accept not just America’s global preponderance but also its terms for navigation of the South China Sea. In pursuing this course the Trump presidency has a clear precedent: the push against the Soviet Union in the early 1980s by the Reagan administration, which deployed economic and political pressure to break what was perceived to be a menacing phase of Soviet expansion in the 1970s. Despite all the risks involved, for American conservatives that episode stands as the benchmark of successful grand strategy.

The reason the attempt to apply this lesson to present-day China is so shocking is that US business is entangled with China to an immeasurably greater degree than it ever was with the Soviet Union. If you are seeking a component of the American world order that is really being tested at the present moment, look no further than Apple’s supply chain in East Asia. Unlike South Korea’s Samsung, the Californian tech giant made a one-way bet on manufacturing integration with China. Almost all its iPhones are assembled there. Apple is an extreme case. But it is not alone. GM currently sells more cars in China than it does in the US. America’s farmers converted their fields wholesale to grow soy beans for export to China, only to find themselves cut out of their biggest market by Brazilian competitors. And it isn’t just American firms that are caught up in the escalation of tension. Important European, South Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese businesses have staked huge wagers on China.

Given these investments, one might have expected more pushback against Trump’s China strategy from US business. So far there has been little. The radical decoupling of the Chinese and American economies may be so horrible a prospect that business leaders simply prefer not to discuss it in public. They may be lying low hoping the row blows over. Or it may be that American business itself buys the increasingly pessimistic diagnosis of the US intelligence and defence community, who argue China’s persistent protectionism and economic nationalism may mean that it presents more of a threat than an opportunity. Even top ‘China hands’ like Steve Schwarzman and Hank Paulson have warned of a chill in the air.

The hardening of attitudes towards China is not confined to America. It was the Anglo-American intelligence consortium known as ‘Five Eyes’ that raised the alarm about Huawei’s capability to build back doors into the West’s most sensitive telecommunications networks. Canada and Australia are deeply concerned about Chinese penetration. The new pessimism about Sinocentric globalisation isn’t confined to security policy hawks, but shared by many mainstream economists and political scientists in US academia, the think-tank world, and journalists and commentators on Chinese affairs. The liberal version of the American world order is deeply influenced by strands of modernisation theory, the up to date version of which is encapsulated in the doctrine of the middle-income trap. Very few large countries have managed to grow beyond China’s current level of income. Those that have done so have kitted themselves out with the full set of liberal institutions and the rule of law. On this reading, China is in a precarious position. Xi’s authoritarian turn is a decisive step in the wrong direction. Further frequently cited signs of Chinese weakness include ethnic tensions and the ageing of the population as a long-term effect of the one-child policy.

China’s Entrepreneurs Are Wary of Its Future
By Li Yuan

“China is facing a lot of internal and external challenges now,” said Fred Hu, founder of the investment firm Primavera Capital Group and former head of Goldman Sachs’s Greater China business. “We need to realize that all of our achievements in the past 40 years were the results of opening up and economic reform, not because of any unique China development model.”

Mr. Hu’s comments are diplomatic. In private, some businesspeople are talking in angrier and more fearful ways. They asked for anonymity, of course. In today’s tightly controlled environment in China, even the economy — once considered a safe subject — has become dangerous to talk about.

“The most important cause of their pessimism is bad policy and bad leadership,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who is in frequent contact with business figures. “It’s clear to the private businesspeople that the moment the government doesn’t need them, it’ll slaughter them like pigs. This is not a government that respects the law. It can change on a dime.”

Many members of the business elite are unhappy that the leadership’s economic policies favor state-owned enterprises even though the private sector drives growth. They are angry that the party is trying to put a Mao-era ideological straitjacket on an economy driven by private enterprises and young consumers. They are upset that the party eliminated term limits last year, raising the prospect that Mr. Xi could become president for life.

Many businesspeople feel increasingly insecure, especially as some entrepreneurs are “disappeared” by the government to assist in the anticorruption campaigns.

“In the eyes of some senior officials, even people like Jack Ma and Pony Ma are just small-time businessmen,” Mr. Chen said in an interview, referring to the founders of Alibaba and Tencent, two of China’s biggest private enterprises.

The New China Syndrome
By Barry C. Lynn

Hollywood, too, has learned to bow and scrape. There’s a delicious irony here: for decades, Americans assumed that one of the surest ways to export liberal values was on 35-mm film. But that was before China got on a path to become the movie industry’s largest market by 2018. And that was before a Chinese billionaire used Chinese state money to assemble the biggest chain of cinemas in the world, including AMC Theatres in the United States. And that was before Chinese moguls became top investors in American-made films. One result is that we now get to watch history being rewritten before our eyes. It was, for example, the Chinese army that in 2007 fired a missile into an old weather satellite, triggering a debris storm that threatened other satellites. By 2013, when the story made it to the big screen in Gravity, the oafish deed had been pinned on today’s stock villains, the Russians.

That the Chinese company Shuanghui, which in 2013 purchased America’s biggest pig processor, Smithfield, is now apparently using Smithfield’s lobbying power to rewrite state laws in Nebraska is not surprising. What we must now get our heads around is that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, though based in New York, are not all that different a case. These bankers have for years profited by serving as procurers for Chinese investors who long to get their hands on American technologies and other assets. Their real interest nowadays? To subject their companies even more directly to Chinese influence by, as Morgan Stanley bluntly put it, hiring the “sons and daughters” of China’s sitting rulers.

Democracies tend to approach empire differently than autocracies. People in democracies typically want other people to embrace their ways, not merely to yield to them at gunpoint. And so the empire Americans built after the Second World War was in fundamental respects unlike those of other modern powers. To be sure, we regularly used military muscle to shape the world — and often made a hash of it. Yet when we reverted to Jeffersonian principles and used our trade power, as we did with the Marshall Plan in Europe and the Kennedy Round of trade liberalization, the frequent result was peace, prosperity, and liberty.

Geir Lundestad, the former head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee and one of Europe’s most celebrated historians of U.S. power, notes that imperial America has been “much more comfortable with spontaneity and self-organization than earlier great powers.” Indeed, for much of the past half-century, Washington’s approach to the world was not unlike the president’s approach to Congress: alternately pleading, horse trading, and whipping. Americans cajoled allies and built coalitions, developed clubs and fostered interests, then used our global trade power to orchestrate the whole enterprise.

What never occurred to us was that another state might rise to inhabit the global trade system we built. Or that the leaders of this other state might learn how to manipulate the same corporate and financial levers that our own leaders have long manipulated.

How Trump Could Wind up Making Globalism Great Again
By Robert Wright

Consider the World Trade Organization. Yes, it performs the welcome service of preempting trade wars. But it does nothing about another source of disruption: the breakneck change brought by globalization—in particular, the relocation of jobs from affluent countries like the US to lower-wage countries.

The upside of this relocation, to be sure, is big. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia and elsewhere have risen out of poverty. From a global perspective, these benefits outweigh the costs, the lost jobs and dampened wages in affluent nations. Still, this is a reminder that a nonzero-sum game—international trade, in this case—can have a net positive outcome but still have losers.

There’s no reason to assume the losers deserve their fate, or that their losses won’t bring more problems. These particular losses have deepened the income inequality that has helped make America seem like two countries and deepened the discontent that got Trump elected. There is such a thing as change that is ultimately good but is proceeding too fast, and with too little attention to its short-term costs.

How do you know when change is happening too fast? Well, when a crudely tribal and recklessly belligerent conspiracy theorist is elected president—and has allies gaining power in other countries—that may be a warning sign.

There are ways you could amend the WTO rules to buffer some workers against rapid change, but before addressing them we have to address a prior question: How would you get such amendments made? How would you counter the influence of the Davos crowd, the people who like to see corporate profits maximized and tend to think that capital should flow to its optimally efficient use, period—and who have enormous influence over the politicians who make policy?

If global governance is going to work, not only will it have to change in form; its rules will have to be widely acknowledged and heeded. International law—the amorphous body of treaties and other agreements that has been honored as much in the breach as in the observance, and which typically lacks a mechanism of firm enforcement—will have to carry more weight than it has carried. If that is to happen, then the United States, the world’s most powerful nation, will have to evince consistent respect for it. This means the American establishment, including lots of elites who oppose Trump, will have to start evincing such respect.

You could be excused for thinking they already do. After all, part of the standard elite indictment of Trump is that, in his disdain for international acronyms, in his contempt for international norms and laws, he is abandoning the “rules-based international order” earlier presidents painstakingly built and maintained. George Packer, writing in The New Yorker, has warned that as Trump escapes the constraint of these rules, “American foreign policy largely depends on what goes on inside Trump’s head.”

That is indeed an alarming prospect. And it’s true that Trump feels less constrained by international rules than his predecessors. But those predecessors broke the rules pretty routinely themselves, and they often did so with the support of the very elites who now wring their hands over the fate of the rules-based international order. This ongoing rule breakage has had disastrous consequences—including, quite possibly, the election of Donald Trump.

Consider America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was a clear violation of international law, since the UN Security Council wasn’t willing to authorize it, and under the UN charter such authorization is the only way to give legal validity to a war that’s not plainly a matter of self-defense. Yet the war got broad support in Congress and on op-ed pages.

It’s always hard to envision the road not taken, but let’s try: Suppose there had been no Iraq War. The war wound up amplifying a central talking point of jihadist recruiters—that America is at war with Islam. (A number of anti-­American terrorists, including Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, have cited the Iraq War as motivation.) So absent the 2003 invasion, there might well have been less terrorism—especially less “homegrown” terrorism—and the electorate Trump faced might have been less freaked out, less susceptible to his fearmongering.

If your policies bring instability that in turn breeds fear and hatred, then candidates who thrive on those things are more likely to get elected. So if there’s a chunk of international law designed to prevent instability—such as the UN charter’s constraints on transborder aggression—maybe you should pay some attention to it, especially if you’re going to go around singing the praises of the rules-based international order. Yet many American politicians who sing those praises also championed the Iraq and Libya adventures.

That those people include Hillary Clinton—the only alternative to Trump in the 2016 election—tells you how far the American political system is from taking global governance seriously. On the one hand, we had a candidate who ostensibly supported the UN charter but casually disregarded it. On the other, we had Trump, who denounced various US military adventures but disdains the international law that stands in opposition to military adventurism.

It seems safe to say that Trump doesn’t spend his spare time pondering this irony. The same can be said of most voters who warmed to his anti-interventionism, certainly including the ones who worry about the New World Order just off the horizon. They might be surprised to hear that the late Kofi Annan, who as secretary general of the UN was compared to the Antichrist in apocalyptic warnings about that order, flatly declared the invasion of Iraq illegal. Maybe if American politicians paid more attention to people like Annan—taking international law more seriously, and realizing its potential as a check on military adventurism—this would send the same message to Trump supporters that a reimagined WTO could send: The rules-based international order, the evolving infrastructure of global governance, can be their friend.

It could be that the conventional wisdom is right—that Trumpism is in no small part a reaction against global governance per se, and so stands in immovable opposition to it. But the story turns out to be more complicated than that. The reaction is largely against global governance done badly—against some rules that were designed with disregard for people in flyover country, and against the fallout from America’s disregard of other rules. And global governance can in principle be done well. Reconciling populist nationalists to the international tools the world needs will be hard, but at least it’s not logically impossible.

We can take some heart in the history of our species. The fact that we’ve gotten this far—to the threshold of a functioning global community—is a tribute to the human capacity for playing nonzero-­sum games wisely. Our ancestors didn’t know game theory, but like us they had cooperative instincts as well as belligerent ones, and they deployed them often enough to play their games with intermittent success. They built passably effective governments of growing scope and intricacy, and sometimes placed those governments in firmly peaceful relationship with one another, even cementing these bonds with institutions that transcend borders. The rudiments of global governance, however flawed, are an impressive legacy, testament to a long and arduous ascent punctuated by chaos and bloodshed from which hard lessons were learned.

Trump and Brexit Proved This Book Prophetic — What Calamity Will Befall Us Next?
By Murtaza Hussain

Can you tell us a little bit about your background in government and how it led you to write a book about the relationship between elite institutions and information?

I had probably the least glamorous job in the CIA: I was an analyst of global media. Early on, that was pretty straightforward work, as there was only a small volume of open information to analyze. Every country had their equivalent of the New York Times, a source which set the news agenda. If the president asked how his policies were playing in, say, France, all you needed to do was consult two newspapers for your answer. But around the turn of the millennium, the information environment suddenly went haywire. A tsunami of information arose, in volumes unprecedented in human experience. In the year 2001, the amount of information produced doubled that of all previous history. 2002 doubled 2001 — and this trend has continued ever since.

As that tsunami of information swept over the world, we observed a great deal of social and political turbulence behind it. Angry voices were suddenly heard where before there was silence. At the time, it was an open question whether this was merely virtual anger or if it would have an impact on politics in the real world. When we pointed out the turbulence, and those voices mocking the status quo, we were asked: If the security forces come after them, what will they do — hit the police with their laptops?

The year 2011 proved to be the moment of phase change, when digital anger passed over into political action. That year saw the Arab insurgencies, but also the “indignados” movement in Spain, the “tent city” protests in Israel, and dozens of Occupy movements in the U.S. All these political insurgencies began online. The public we first glimpsed when I was with CIA has since toppled dictators, smashed political parties, and of course elected outlandish populists to high office.

It’s not just government either. An overabundance of information has been subversive of every modern institution, from the news media to the scientific establishment, to the university, and the corporation. All have come under siege and are bleeding authority and legitimacy. My concern, as I wrote the book, was that the public’s loathing of the established order was bound to implicate our democratic system itself.

How has the new information environment changed the relationship between elite institutions and the general public?

The institutions that sustain modern society were established in the industrial age. They are steep, top-down pyramids, with the industrial elites occupying the top of the pyramid, at a great distance from the public. Elites succeeded or failed in part by impressing the public with their expertise but mostly by impressing other elites. Today, due to the new information dispensation, these elites have been brought into close proximity to the public and are exposed to the public’s constant scrutiny. They are all too aware of the public’s anger, aware that they have lost control of the information sphere. The result has been a sort of elite panic and a bleeding away of their authority and legitimacy.

To function properly, industrial institutions, including government, need to have some proprietary control over the information in their own domains — the stories that get told about them. Once this control is lost, and a host of competing narratives about them arise, public trust inevitably starts to evaporate. This is what we see happening all around us. The effect has been a massive crisis of authority.

We have a picture of how this flood of new information has impacted elites, but how has it impacted the public?

Fifty years ago, society was organized according to the industrial model. People were passive recipients of information. It was a top-down system with limited choices or diversity. You could buy two or three different types of cars and get your information from two or three different television channels and newspapers. This system produced a relatively uniform “mass audience” that was suitable for the needs of industrial society.

What we have seen since is a complete breakdown of that system. The loss of control over information has resulted in the breakdown of the mass audience and many of the old ideologies. In its place has emerged a more ideologically diverse and fractious public. The public, which is not necessarily synonymous with “the people” or “the masses,” can come from any corner of the political environment today. It is not a fixed body of individuals and lacks an organization, leaders, shared programs, policies, or a coherent ideology. The public is characterized by negation: It is united in being ferociously against the established order.

What is the response of elites to their loss of trust and legitimacy?

The elite class can respond to their crisis of authority by heading in two opposite directions. And if I were to guess, I would say that they are now heading for the least productive option. They could identify the causes of the public’s anger and work to reconcile the public to the system. This would entail flattening the political pyramid and reducing as much as possible their distance from the public. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

Elites currently seem to be more concerned with re-establishing their distance from the public than with reforming the system or restoring their own authority. They equate legitimacy with clinging to the top of the pyramid. They find proximity to the public frightening and distasteful: No elite figure wants to come near the “deplorables.” They prefer to hide behind bodyguards and metal-detecting machines. Somewhat reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that authority will not be restored to our democratic institutions until the current elite class — what I have called the “industrial elites” — is replaced. As I explain in the book, this can happen quite peacefully.

What I found interesting about your book is that in addition to criticizing the elite, you’re also quite skeptical of this newly vocal public.

When this new wave of information began to rise, I initially thought that I was on the side of the public. But on analyzing the statements and pronouncements of many of the new popular movements, I began to see that they had a distinctly nihilist streak. They were mired in negation towards the status quo, but rarely proposed clear alternatives to the order that they were bashing away at. The Arab Spring, as well as the Occupy movements and the Spanish “indignados,” among others in the West, were movements united on the basis of what they were against. They were far less clear about what they were in favor of or how they were going to build that future. The 2016 Brexit referendum and election of Donald Trump — both of which were based primarily on the angry repudiation of the status quo — provided further compelling evidence of this public sentiment.

You’re not a revolutionary, but you still argue that as a society, we need to replace our current elite and radically reshape government.

We select our elites all the time, and I don’t just mean politicians. We select cultural elites based on the movies we choose to watch, the artists we follow, and the books we read. All these choices to some degree reflect who the public admires and chooses to raise up to positions of elite influence. So if we select the elites, we can un-select them. When it comes to politics, we can support politicians who fit into the digital age and are willing to compress the pyramid and dwell closer to the public. This would mean supporting candidates who speak the truth as they understand it and who will return to the public once their terms of office are over. They will not go to Washington and become celebrities, at a distance from the rest of society.

A healthy attitude towards government would also recognize that it is a limited tool and that human knowledge itself is limited. There are many outcomes we just don’t know how to achieve and politicians should govern with a sense humility and modesty. We as the public should not train them to promise the impossible, but should expect them to govern by trial and error, rather than by grand theories and “solutions.” We should reject politicians who make claims we know are not deliverable. If I ever hear a politician say, “I was wrong,” that person has my vote.

Politics Is Not Total War
By Peter Wehner

Those arguing on different sides of an issue almost always make valid points — and usually there are downsides to their arguments as well. One decision may improve things in a certain area; another decision may improve things in a different area. In real life, the arguments rarely line up 100 percent on your side and zero percent on the other. It’s usually closer to 60-40.

For example, tax cuts may spur greater economic growth while also increasing the deficit and widening income inequality. Imposing tariffs on steel imports may protect the steel industry, but as a result they will make steel more expensive for automakers, a cost that is passed on to consumers.

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws may decrease crime by keeping some violent people in prison for a long time — but the effects of these incarceration policies may not be as great as many people think, and they might also put too many people behind bars who shouldn’t be there, which can have a devastating impact on communities and families.

There can be enormous humanitarian costs in deciding not to act to solve wickedly complicated problems. In 1994 Bill Clinton decided against intervening in the Rwandan genocide, in part because the United States had just pulled its troops out of a disastrous peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The decision was understandable. But Mr. Clinton has since called his failure to intervene in Rwanda one of his biggest regrets, saying that he believes that had we stepped in at the beginning of the genocide, at least 300,000 people might have been saved.

In the late 18th century, Edmund Burke wrote to a friend and fellow member of Parliament that “every political question that I have ever known has had so much of the pro and con in it that nothing but the success could decide which proposition ought to have been adopted.”

Burke was right. It’s impossible to know the exact consequences once abstract ideas are imperfectly put into effect in the real world, which is untidy and unpredictable.

Nobody Understands Democracy Anymore
By Shany Mor

Political thinkers have come to see governance as yet another market mechanism where preferences can be aggregated and efficient outcomes determined. If people disagree, they must be ill-informed or prejudiced. But disagreement is a fundamental condition—the fundamental condition—of politics. And the most important practice of democracy isn’t voting, but rather proscribing norms for the habit of legitimate disagreement. Representative assemblies, with their large numbers of diverse members and their ritualized speech acts and decision-making rules engender these habits, particularly when their proceedings and decisions are at the center of public attention. Twitter can’t replace that; cable news can’t replace that; referendums can’t replace that; liberal high courts, international organizations, pious human rights groups, and the free market can’t replace that; and authoritarian populists certainly can’t replace that.

To measure democracy against some Athenian ideal, or to criticize it in those terms, is to miss the point. We are not Athenians, not because we can’t be, but because we don’t want to be. Our smartphones, our social media apps, our almost unlimited access to information and platforms have all given us the means to subject our politics to a daily public decision-making process free of all gatekeepers and constraints. And yet we still, most of us at least, prefer to live under the rule of laws. We prefer it even as we lose our grip on the democratic institutions that have historically yoked the most powerful members of society to the same laws that the rest of us must abide. Law can’t just be a nondemocratic means for imposing a liberal agenda, if only because it will eventually become a nondemocratic means for imposing an illiberal agenda.

The strongmen are back. And we have no idea how to confront them.
By Robert Kagan

The problem is not just the shifting global balance of power between liberalism and anti-liberalism. The revolutions in communications technologies, the Internet and social media, data collection and artificial intelligence have reshaped the competition between liberalism and anti-liberalism in ways that have only recently become clear, and which do not bode well for liberalism.

Developments in China offer the clearest glimpse of the future. Through the domination of cyberspace, the control of social media, the collection and use of Big Data and artificial intelligence, the government in Beijing has created a more sophisticated, all-encompassing and efficient means of control over its people than Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or even George Orwell could have imagined. What can be done through social media and through the employment of artificial intelligence transcends even the effective propaganda methods of the Nazis and the Soviet communists. At least with old-fashioned propaganda, you knew where the message was coming from and who was delivering it. Today, people’s minds are shaped by political forces harnessing information technologies and algorithms of which they are not aware and delivering messages through their Facebook pages, their Twitter accounts and their Google searches.

The Chinese government is rapidly acquiring the ability to know everything about the country’s massive population, collectively and individually — where they travel, whom they know, what they are saying and to whom they are saying it. A “social-credit register” will enable the government to reward and punish individuals in subtle, but pervasive, ways. The genius of what democracy scholar Larry Diamond has called this “postmodern totalitarianism” is that individuals will “appear to be free to go about their daily lives” but, in fact, the state will control and censor everything they see, while keeping track of everything they say and do.

This revolutionary development erases whatever distinction may have existed between “authoritarianism” and “totalitarianism.” What autocrat would not want to acquire this method of control? Instead of relying on expensive armies and police engaged in open killing and brutality against an angry and resentful population, an autocrat will now have a cheaper, more subtle and more effective means of control. Recognizing this demand, China is marketing the hardware and software of its surveillance state system to current and would-be autocrats on almost every continent.

Consequently, the binary distinction between liberal and non-liberal governments is going to be all that matters. Whether a government is liberal or non-liberal will determine how it deals with new technologies, and there will be radical differences. Liberal governments will have to struggle with the implications of these technologies for individual rights — and as we have already seen, it isn’t easy. But liberal democracies will approach the problem from the bedrock premise that individual rights must be protected. The rights of private companies to sell what they want will have to be balanced against the rights of individuals to protect their own data. The need of government to provide security by monitoring the communications of dangerous people will have to be balanced against the right of individuals not to be spied on by their government.

The problems that bedevil liberal democracies, however, are not problems at all for non-liberal governments. Whether “authoritarian,” “totalitarian,” “liberal” autocracy or “illiberal” democracy, they do not face the same dilemmas: All these governments, by definition, do not have to respect the rights of individuals or corporations. Individuals are not entitled to privacy, and there are no truly private companies. As Diamond observed, there is “no enforceable wall of separation between ‘private’ companies and the party-state” in China. But the same is true in Russia, where the majority of companies are owned by Putin and a small loyal oligarchy; in Egypt, where they are owned by the military; in Venezuela, where they are owned by a business and military mafia; and in Turkey, where state capture of the economy has risen dramatically in recent years.

The enormous progress of the past seven-plus decades was not some natural evolution of humanity; it was the product of liberalism’s unprecedented power and influence in the international system. Until the second half of the 20th century, humanity was moving in the other direction. We err in thinking that the horrors perpetrated against Ukrainians and Chinese during the 1930s, and against Jews during the 1940s, were bizarre aberrations. Had World War II produced a different set of victors, as it might have, such behavior would have persisted as a regular feature of existence. It certainly has persisted outside the liberal world in the postwar era — in Cambodia and Rwanda, in Sudan and the Balkans, in Syria and Myanmar.

Even liberal nations are capable of atrocities, though they recoil at them when discovered. Non-liberal nations do not recoil. Today, we need only look to the concentration camps in China where more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs are being subjected to mental and physical torture and “re-education.” As authoritarian nations and the authoritarian idea gain strength, there will be fewer and fewer barriers to what illiberal governments can do to their people.

We need to start imagining what it will be like to live in such a world, even if the United States does not fall prey to these forces itself. Just as during the 1930s, when realists such as Robert Taft assured Americans that their lives would be undisturbed by the collapse of democracy in Europe and the triumph of authoritarianism in Asia, so we have realists today insisting that we pull back from confronting the great authoritarian powers rising in Eurasia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s answer, that a world in which the United States was the “lone island” of democratic liberalism would be a “shabby and dangerous place to live in,” went largely unheeded then and no doubt will go largely unheeded again today.

To many these days, liberalism is just some hazy amalgam of idealisms, to be saluted or scorned depending on whose ox is being gored. Those who have enjoyed the privileges of race and gender, who have been part of a comfortable majority in shaping cultural and religious norms, are turning away from liberalism as those privileges have become threatened — just as critics of liberal capitalism on the American left once turned away from liberalism in the name of equality and justice and may be doing so again. They do so, however, with an unspoken faith that liberalism will continue to survive, that their right to critique liberalism will be protected by the very liberalism they are critiquing.

Today, that confidence is misplaced, and one wonders whether Americans would have the same attitude if they knew what it meant for them. We seem to have lost sight of a simple and very practical reality: that whatever we may think about the persistent problems of our lives, about the appropriate balance between rights and traditions, between prosperity and equality, between faith and reason, only liberalism ensures our right to hold and express those thoughts and to battle over them in the public arena. Liberalism is all that keeps us, and has ever kept us, from being burned at the stake for what we believe.

We’re in an anti-liberal moment. Liberals need better answers.
By Samuel Moyn

Liberalism’s main problem is that its vision of a life well lived has been corrupted — not by too much license and self-expression, but by an overemphasis on economic freedom that has undercut its own promise.

The right strategy for liberals is therefore to own their failure to make their ideals of self-creation a reality. They must assert not merely that their tradition coexisted with and even promoted religious values — as it undeniably did — but also revive their proposals for meaningful life in the absence of divine superintendence. Liberalism can thrive because it is the only worldview so far that does not try to resolve the eternal debate over whether to orient oneself to the divine, but allows either bet to be made, and creative and meaningful lives to be led either way.

Barack Obama noted, in June 2018, that he’d read and enjoyed Deneen’s book, but he did not reckon publically with why his own strain of liberalism failed. Savage is right that Obama summoned “forth a tidal wave of popular goodwill, then proceeded to invite the same old cadre of apparatchiks and financiers back into the White House to carry on business as usual.” But this doesn’t mean that liberalism, as a whole, has failed. It simply means that Americans have to push their politicians to embrace old traditions of honoring the common people and invent new traditions that save the ideal of a free life from thralldom to market values and meritocratic conformity.

Democracies are on track to lose their global economic dominance as ‘authoritarian capitalism’ rises
By Frederick Kempe

How much of democracies’ success came from the attraction of Western values like free speech and individual rights? How much instead was a result of new democracies wanting to hitch their wagons to American and Western European prosperity and extract themselves from the bankruptcy of the Soviet and other, similarly constructed, state-controlled systems?

It was certainly a product of both – but democracies will struggle more in a contest with autocracies if they produce less comparative prosperity over time.

If there were any doubt that today’s autocrats consider themselves locked in competition with liberal democracies – and believe they are winning – that was dispelled by last week’s ground-breaking interview by Lionel Barber and Henry Foy of the Financial Times with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

On the eve of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Putin said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose.” Said Putin, “(Liberals) cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades.”

That said, Putin knows better than anyone else that this history isn’t yet fully written.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has faced massive and persistent Hong Kong protests staged against an extradition bill China had wanted to impose on Hong Kong residents. Putin’s Russia dropped all charges against investigative reporter Ivan Golunov following an outpouring of public and media support for the detained journalist.

Beyond that, Turkish democracy showed new life after a rerun of Istanbul mayoral elections produced an even larger, landslide victory for opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, which Ghitis sees as a blowback against President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule and his slowing economy.

Istanbul’s Rebuke of Erdogan Shows That Democracy Lives
By Ian Bremmer

In March, Turkish opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu defeated Binali Yildirim, the candidate of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, by about 13,000 votes to claim victory in the race to become Istanbul’s mayor. The exceptionally narrow margin in a city of 15 million people gave Erdogan cover to demand an election rerun. On June 23, Istanbul voted again, and Imamoglu won again–this time by about 800,000 votes. It was a stunning rebuke for Erdogan, himself once Istanbul’s mayor, and a clear signal that many in Turkey’s largest city are fed up with the man who has dominated the country since 2003.

In the process, voters have proved once again that while Erdogan may continue to reach for Putin-like powers, Turkey is not Russia. It’s a legitimate multiparty democracy with genuinely contested elections. After triggering the second vote, the President campaigned vigorously for his party’s candidate and used his government’s tight grip on Turkey’s media to ensure favorable coverage. Despite that advantage, his demand for a do-over transformed a loss by 0.16% of the vote into a 9-percentage-point blowout.

Given that margin, Erdogan had little choice except to publicly acknowledge the result, but he’s unlikely to truly accept such a stinging political defeat. Over many years in power, he has demonstrated an instinct for responding to political setbacks with a more emphatic power grab. In this case, he’s likely to use the courts to strip powers from Istanbul’s mayor’s office and shift them to the central government. With a weak economy and contentious relations with the U.S., Erdogan is likely to double down on his confrontational nationalist agenda.

His greatest vulnerability comes from Turkey’s feeble economy. During his first years in power, Erdogan earned credit for good economic times. Emboldened by this success, his party promised in 2012 that Turkey’s per capita income would climb to $25,000 by 2023. The IMF estimates that 2018 per capita income stood at about $8,700. Turkey’s gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the world.

The Dictators’ Last Stand
By Yascha Mounk

At some point during their tenure, populist dictators are likely to face an acute crisis. Even honest and competent leaders are likely to see their popularity decline because of events over which they have little control, such as a global recession, if they stay in office long enough. There are also good reasons to believe that populist dictatorships are more likely than democracies to face crises of their own making. Drawing on a comprehensive global database of populist governments since 1990, for example, the political scientist Jordan Kyle and I have demonstrated that democratic countries ruled by populists tend to be more corrupt than their nonpopulist peers. Over time, the spread of corruption is likely to inspire frustration at populists’ unfulfilled promises to “drain the swamp.”

Similarly, research by the political scientist Roberto Foa suggests that the election of populists tends to lead to serious economic crises. When left-wing populists come to power, their policies often lead to a cratering stock market and rapid capital flight. Right-wing populists, by contrast, usually enjoy rising stock prices and investor confidence during their first few years in office. But as they engage in erratic policymaking, undermine the rule of law, and marginalize independent experts, their countries’ economic fortunes tend to sour. By the time that right-wing populists have been in office for five or ten years, their countries are more likely than their peers to have suffered from stock market crashes, acute financial crises, or bouts of hyperinflation.

Once a populist regime faces a political crisis, the massive contradictions at the heart of its story of legitimation make the crisis especially difficult to deal with. Initially, the political repression in which populist regimes engage remains somewhat hidden from public view. Power grabs usually take the form of complicated rule changes—such as a lower retirement age for judges or a modification of the selection mechanisms for members of the country’s electoral commission—whose true import is difficult to grasp for ordinary citizens. Although political opponents, prominent journalists, and independent judges may start to experience genuine oppression early in a populist’s tenure, the great majority of citizens, including most public-sector workers, remain unaffected. And since the populist continues to win real majorities at the ballot box, he or she can point to genuine popularity to dispel any doubts about the democratic nature of his or her rule.

This equilibrium is likely to be disrupted when a shock or a crisis lowers the leader’s popularity. In order to retain power, the leader must step up the oppression: cracking down on independent media, firing judges and civil servants, changing the electoral system, disqualifying or jailing opposition candidates, rigging votes, annulling the outcome of elections, and so on. But all these options share the same downside: by forcing the antidemocratic character of the regime out into the open, they are likely to increase the share of the population that recognizes the government for what it truly is.

Is a Tide Turning Against Populism?
By Jeffrey A. Stacey

Is a discernible trend at work here? Either way, logic may well be on the liberals’ side. First, populist leaders tend to be poor at governing, particularly in the area of economic policy. Second, the more Russia continues to rattle its sabers and make European countries feel insecure, the more places like Poland will avoid becoming too populist. Third, while electorates in Europe have been withdrawing their support from traditional center-left and center-right parties, liberal, green and other parties offer decidedly anti-populist policies.

We may need more time to ascertain whether a larger global “backlash to the backlash” trend is afoot. But in Central Europe the evidence is clear. Major protests have also recently sprung up in Turkey, Algeria, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela and, most notably, Hong Kong. Though the trend already appears to have crested in the West, the battle against populism has been joined by regrouped liberal forces. The vaunted liberal international order, however damaged, remains intact to a significant degree.

The Future of the Liberal Order Is Conservative
By Jennifer Lind and William C. Wohlforth

The case of Taiwan shows what a successful conservative approach looks like in practice, demonstrating how the United States can deter a rival great power from expanding while preventing a partner from provoking it. For decades, Washington has declared that the island’s future should be resolved peacefully. Leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have sometimes sought to overturn the status quo, as when Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian began making pro-independence moves after he was elected in 2000. In response, U.S. President George W. Bush publicly warned Chen against unilaterally changing the status quo—a tough stance toward a longtime U.S. partner that helped keep the peace. This policy may be tested again, as demographic and economic trends strengthen the Taiwanese people’s sense of national identity, as China grows more assertive, and as voices in the United States call for an unambiguously pro-Taiwan policy. But Washington should hold fast: for decades, conservatism has served it, and the region, well.

A conservative order would also entail drawing clearer lines between official efforts to promote democracy and those undertaken independently by civil society groups. By example and activism, vibrant civil societies in the United States and other liberal countries can do much to further democracy abroad. When governments get in the game, however, the results tend to backfire. As the political scientists Alexander Downes and Lindsey O’Rourke found in their comprehensive study, foreign-imposed regime change rarely leads to improved relations and frequently has the opposite effect. Liberal states should stand ready to help when a foreign government itself seeks assistance. But when one resists help, it is best to stay out. Meddling will only aggravate that government’s concerns about violations of sovereignty and tar opposition forces with the charge of being foreign pawns.

Ai Weiwei: Can Hong Kong’s Resistance Win?
By Ai Weiwei

China has much more wealth and influence than it had three decades ago. Its economy interlocks with the world’s, and it aims to extend its reach through an ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative.” But its wealth was built on the backs of low-wage labor by rural migrants, unprotected by safety regulations, unions, a free press or rule of law.

Political power in China operates in ways that resemble the underworld. The strengths of the system are the speed and efficiency of its governing machine, which is well oiled by corruption, protected by a vast police system and has no competitors. Human beings? They are but its cogs. If humans have other wants or needs — like independent thinking, free expression or personal happiness — well, those are things for our rivals, the Western democracies, to pursue. The West’s production model is less efficient than ours. Ours has “Chinese characteristics.”

At root, the confrontation with the West is not about trade. It is about two fundamentally incompatible political systems, two different understandings of what modern civilization is. The Chinese government’s model of human sacrifice in service of the wealth and power of the state (and of the super-elite) inevitably conflicts with democratic ideals. Western governments and businesses that piggyback on China’s system in search of their own profit should remind themselves: To know that your actions harm human dignity and to go ahead and continue them anyway is the essence of iniquity.

Hong Kong protesters play dangerous endgame with China
By Tom Mitchell

Chinese Communist party leaders long hated Hong Kong as a symbol of the “humiliations” suffered by China at the hands of the UK and other colonial powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as its role as a bolt-hole for the party’s many capitalist “class enemies” who fled there after the Communist revolution in 1949. But because they also recognised Hong Kong’s immense value to China, especially as the party launched daring new economic reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, they came up with the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

More recently, many powerful Chinese political families have also come to appreciate Hong Kong as a safe haven for their immense wealth. The territory has both its own currency, pegged to the US dollar, and an open capital account that has helped it thrive as an international finance centre where Chinese state-owned enterprises have raised billions of dollars through equity offerings since the mid-1990s. “Many big [party] families have an interest in Hong Kong so Beijing wants to keep Hong Kong alive,” says Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based historian and prominent party critic.

Mr Zhang also notes that slower economic growth in China and its ongoing trade war with the US make this a particularly bad time for a dramatic escalation of events in Hong Kong. “In the context of the trade war, if Beijing sends in the PLA or PAP it will trigger international sanctions and put Beijing in an even worse situation. Sending in the PLA is a lose-lose situation.”

One member of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing establishment, who asked not to be identified, says the central government is still confident it will not have to do the unthinkable. “Beijing is betting this will die down,” he said. “[Their message] is we should present a united front and focus on restoring order.”

But he is also very concerned about what will happen if Beijing is wrong and it will have to resort to sending forces into Hong Kong. “I worry about the young people [protesting],” he says. “They shouldn’t underestimate how ruthless the Chinese Communist party is.”

A ‘Troublemaker’ Faces Hong Kong’s Future
By Jillian Kay Melchior

Mr. Lai believes Mr. Xi is more vulnerable than he looks. Since 1949 the Chinese Communist Party has been a game of thrones, with the toughest political operators prevailing. But Mr. Xi abolished presidential term limits, concentrating power like no leader since Mao. Mr. Lai likens him to a king or emperor presiding over a feudal system: “The government becomes a court government, the same as in the old times.” That makes enemies of those shut out of power: “Whenever they see opportunity, they will fight back.”

Mr. Lai describes Mr. Xi as “definitely a hard-core Communist” who looks especially strong because technology gives him “a power of controlling the people unprecedented in human history.” China is creating a surveillance state, using high-tech to track faces, movement and associations.

But Mr. Lai believes Mr. Xi is overreaching: “When you have concentrated all the power on yourself, you’re also concentrating all the responsibility on yourself. Every mistake becomes your mistake. When you have shared power, you have shared responsibility.” Mr. Lai doesn’t rule out an internal coup because Mr. Xi is holding “an impossible job.”

Mr. Lai says China runs on an implicit social contract in which the Communist Party denies the people political liberty but offers economic prosperity. That bargain has come under threat as the U.S. and Europe grow weary of Beijing’s abuses of the international order and cyber and intellectual-property theft. Then came Donald Trump, who “understands the Chinese like no president understood,” Mr. Lai says. “I think he’s very good at dealing with gangsters.”

China’s Communists are “materialists,” Mr. Lai says, whereas the old Soviet Union at least had an ideology. The problem for the Chinese is that communism “has been debunked,” Mr. Lai says, while the West still has its moral authority, expressed in rule of law and respect for human rights. Mr. Lai sees a clash of civilizations and believes Western values will prevail.

China’s investment initiative, known as One Belt, One Road, is running into trouble because of its values—or rather its lack of them. Beijing assumed that foreign leaders would accept loans at usurious rates if they could take a cut or use it for their own political purposes. But Mr. Lai says Mr. Xi failed to understand that citizens would feel enraged when they learned of corrupt dealings that left their countries in hock to Beijing.

Similarly, with the extradition legislation, Mr. Xi counts on Hong Kong’s leaders to sell out their own people for political advancement. But Mr. Lai says Beijing fails to appreciate how the British imparted a reverence for the rule of law to the colony they ruled beginning in 1842. “For us, colonialism was something that was a gift by God because we were the only Chinese who had freedom,” Mr. Lai says.

China is betting on might, he says, while Hong Kong is betting on right: “We don’t have weapons. We don’t have raw power.” But Hong Kongers do have a lot to lose. Young people were the backbone of this week’s protests, but they don’t have the money or the ability to immigrate. “They’re stuck. The only alternative is to fight.” The challenge is to keep that fight peaceful.

Protesters Mass in Hong Kong Against Proposed Extradition Law
By Austin Ramzy

Young people and families were prominent in the crowd, with parents bouncing toddlers on their hips and leading young children by the hand. One child clutched a sign saying, “Protect my future.”

The protest also drew people who normally stay on the sidelines. Lee Kin-long, 46, said he and his wife felt they needed to attend.

“This law is dangerous, and not just for activists,” he said. “We are not activists. Even as regular citizens, we can’t stand to see China eroding away our freedom.”

Did Hong Kong Police Abuse Protesters? What Videos Show.
By Javier C. Hernández, Barbara Marcolini, Haley Willis, Drew Jordan, Meg Felling, Tiffany May and Elsie Chen

The video below shows Ng Ying-mo, 57, a retired mechanics instructor, walking within 12 yards of a police line outside government offices. He asks the police to stop provoking protesters. Then he begins yelling obscenities.

An officer aims a gun, which weapons experts said was likely loaded with balls containing pepper spray, in the direction of Mr. Ng. A gunshot is heard, and then Mr. Ng is on the ground, clutching his lower abdomen. Three officers pick him up and carry him away.

Mr. Ng had planned to go hiking on the day of the protests. But he grew emotional when he heard about tense standoffs between the riot police and young protesters, and decided to join in.

“I hoped to shield them at least for a while, so they wouldn’t face such danger,” Mr. Ng said.

Mr. Ng, who suffers from lung cancer, said he fainted from the pain and woke up to the police dropping him on the ground. They continued to beat him, he said, ripping his T-shirt and shorts and leaving him with bruises. He was charged with participating in an unlawful assembly and released on bail.

In the video below, a protester stands in the middle of the same road where Mr. Ng was injured. Suddenly, riot police rush toward him, pulling him to the ground and beating him.

The man is taken to the sidewalk and forcefully handled by several officers. He was arrested on charges of participating in an unlawful assembly and obstructing the duties of a police officer, according to Icarus Wong, a member of Civil Rights Observer, an advocacy group that is assisting the man, who did not want to be identified.

In another video, a man who is distributing water to protesters near the General Post Office is attacked by police. A group of at least eight police officers pepper sprays him, punches him and beats him with batons. He falls to the ground, and an officer puts him in a chokehold. The man was left with a scar under his left eye, according to his lawyer, Bond Ng, who declined to identify him. He was arrested and later released on bail, his lawyer said.

“This is basically an essay on how not to police a protest movement,” said Dr. Rohini Haar of Physicians for Human Rights, an advocacy organization. “Beating of unarmed protesters who are not posing any active threat” is a violation of law enforcement principles prescribed by the United Nations, she said.

In the video below, protesters run from police outside the main entrance to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Florence Chan, a protester who had been singing hymns, falls to the ground amid the chaos. At least four officers begin to attack her with batons and shields.

Ms. Chan said in an interview that she begged the officers to stop hitting her. “I thought they were going to beat me to death,” Ms. Chan said. She said she was left with bumps on her head, bruises on her arms and swollen feet.

Police Dressed as Protesters: How Undercover Police in Hong Kong Severely Injured People
By Barbara Marcolini

Protesters have accused the Hong Kong police of using excessive force throughout the demonstrations that have gripped the city for the past four months. But on the night of Aug. 11, a major shift occurred. For the first time, officers disguised as demonstrators were seen beating protesters and conducting arrests.

Videos of the night went viral. They showed undercover officers hitting protesters with batons and pinning them to the ground, leaving some bleeding profusely. We analyzed footage of the night and spoke to more than a dozen witnesses and protesters who were detained. Lawyers and human rights advocates who watched the images say the police used excessive force to conduct arbitrary arrests.

The Hong Kong police said they had conducted a “decoy operation” targeting a “core group of violent rioters.” But three of the men arrested said they did not know one another, and protests in the area had ended hours before the clash.

One man says he suffered a brain hemorrhage; others had serious bone fractures. Doctors described one injury, a broken arm, as caused by assault. The episode became one more example of police tactics that have infuriated citizens, driving calls for an independent investigation into police misconduct.

As armed thugs bash Hong Kong protesters, city’s crisis takes a sinister turn
By Shibani Mahtani

Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting was in a subway station near his constituency on Sunday night responding to reports of a violent mob in the area. Suddenly, dozens more of the white-shirted men appeared, surrounding the station.

Armed with bats, batons and wooden rods attached to Chinese flags, they chased protesters returning from a largely peaceful anti-government march into a subway train and around the station. As they kicked, hit and punched people, commuters pleaded for mercy and hid behind umbrellas. One witness said several women were wailing and hyperventilating in fear, some separated from their family members.

Video shared with The Washington Post showed the men beating people with sticks so violently that they fell to the ground, clutching injured limbs. Chinese flags that had fallen from the sticks littered the floor. Surgical face masks and tissues drenched in blood lay abandoned on subway cars.

“There were so many passengers, so many ordinary people,” said Lam, speaking by telephone from a hospital where he was recovering from broken fingers, a deep gash near his mouth and other injuries to his arms and body. He could not remember how many had surrounded and pummeled him, but he said they were using vulgar language and telling people to stay away from the Yuen Long neighborhood.

The scenes marked an unprecedented level of violence against protesters during a political crisis that has gripped Hong Kong this summer. Those protests began in response to a now-suspended Hong Kong government proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, but they have since swollen into a pro-autonomy movement calling for greater democracy and an inquiry into police violence, as well as the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill and the resignation of Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader.

Hong Kong’s Democracy Is Flourishing Online—And China Can’t Block It
By Shelly Banjo, Natalie Lung, Annie Lee and Hannah Dormido

Airport authorities got wind of the protest by mid-morning, and sent out a statement restricting access to the check-in area at Terminal 1. But officials still appeared caught off guard by the sheer number of demonstrators.

At around 4 p.m., the airport issued an unprecedented statement that shocked Hong Kong and the world: All flights would be canceled for the rest of the day.

Rumors began circulating that police would storm the airport. V. Ho, a 19-year-old part-time student who helps administer the Telegram airport discussion group, quickly huddled with other organizers in the terminal. They agreed to tell people to disperse for their own safety.

“At the end, nothing happened the entire night,” she said afterward. “We were criticized by people in the group. Even though our goal was met that day, I still felt very guilty for telling people to leave.”

In a Telegram poll later that night, demonstrators chose to head back to the airport for a second day. Wary of upsetting the group again, Ho and other administrators resolved to just organize polls for users instead of making decisions themselves.

It didn’t take long on Tuesday, Aug. 13, for the terminal buildings to fill up and for airport authorities to cancel all flight check-ins once again. But the mood among protesters had turned darker, from a righteous anger the day before to something more like a paranoid frenzy.

Some time around 7 p.m., with the terminal buildings heaving, a group of protesters beat up a mainland Chinese man they suspected was a police officer seeking to infiltrate the group. The crowd then refused to let paramedics evacuate the man for the next few hours, leading to a stomach-turning standoff on live television in which it was unclear whether he would survive.

Asked by a Bloomberg reporter what would happen if the man died, one protester at the airport said “I would clap.” That sentiment was shared online: In response to a poll asking if the group should let the man go, about 75% said he should either be detained or severely beaten.

After several attempts, rescue personnel finally managed to evacuate the man. Less than an hour later, protesters accosted another Chinese citizen, this time a reporter with the state-run Global Times newspaper. They tied his wrists and ankles to a luggage trolley with plastic cords before beating him. Paramedics eventually got him out and rushed him to the hospital.

Though both men survived, the incidents shocked the conscience of Hong Kongers and westerners alike who support the broader push for greater democracy, showing the pitfalls of a leaderless movement.

“It was purely a mob mentality,” said Antony Dapiran, a Hong Kong-based lawyer who authored the book “City of Protest” about the financial hub. “People in a crowd lose their individual thinking, and without some sort of moral authority or leader figure there was no one to talk the crowd back and calm things down.”

Clashes with police who sought to rescue the detained mainlanders⁠—including an incident where an officer drew his gun to fend off attackers⁠—started to rattle protesters. At around the same time the Global Times reporter was tied up, a Telegram poll asked demonstrators whether they should end the airport sit-in. Nearly 81% of respondents said yes, and many started leaving⁠—a sober end to the most dramatic two days yet in the historic movement.

The soul-searching began shortly afterward. By 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, a Telegram poll showed that 74% of nearly 11,000 respondents voted to apologize for the violence and the disruption to travelers.

In the days that followed, the chastened netizens took a backseat to more traditional Hong Kong pro-democracy forces. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized some of the largest demonstrations over the past few months, led a peaceful mass rally through the rain on Sunday that helped reset the movement.

Hong Kong’s struggle is ours too. It’s a wake-up call to defend all basic human rights
By Natalie Nougayrède

When the activist Joshua Wong was released this week, his first words were about “fundamental rights and freedom”. He didn’t mention sovereignty, nor ethnicity, nor religious or cultural identity. As such, Hong Kong’s activists serve as a reminder of universal principles that we have become almost numb to in the age of suspicion, conspiracy theories, fake news, moral relativism and identity politics. We’ve become accustomed to thinking about rights from the perspective of a specific group, whatever its characteristics; but here are rights being fought for in universal terms: “fundamental” was the key word.

This points to what was enshrined in the international charters drawn up in the aftermath of the second world war, when a global liberal order was tentatively put in place. As the 1948 UN-adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, and all are entitled to those rights and freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Hong Kong’s activists stand for something vital for us all: the right of the individual not to be persecuted or extradited to a dictatorship, the right to assemble without incurring prison, the right to speak freely, to enjoy freedom of information. If we are truly internationalists or anti-nationalists, now is the time to embrace all those seemingly distant struggles as our own, and without distinction, without selective or variable indignation. Not because it suits our political agenda or our interests, but – yes, let’s say it – in human solidarity. Universalism is not a dirty word, it is beautiful.

30 Years After Tiananmen Protests, ‘The Fight Is Still Going On For China’

What do you think the legacy of Tiananmen is today?

China today, politically, is a result of the Tiananmen massacre. Once they use their own troops to kill Chinese people, there’s no stopping. There’s no limit to their human rights abuses in particular today, because their totalitarianism is aided by technology and globalization.

Over the past 30 years there has been so much done to erase the memory. On the other hand, every year people risk a lot to commemorate Tiananmen. For example, Pastor Wang Yi at the Early Rain church in Chengdu [in southwestern China’s Sichuan province] insisted on openly commemorating Tiananmen every year. He was arrested with his wife last December. Nobody has seen him since.

But most importantly, the legacy of Tiananmen shows how Chinese people love freedom and they want democracy. They were willing to sacrifice for it, even during and after the massacre.

So I think the fight is still going on for China even though it’s very difficult for people like us who are still trying to keep the memory alive because the younger generation, the college students today, they have pretty much grown up completely under the shadow of the great firewall.

But you also see the legacy of Tiananmen being expressed in other examples of activism and democratic advocacy after 1989, don’t you?

Right. For example, the [2014 Hong Kong] Umbrella Revolution. I was there for a week on the street camping with the students. I was so touched. It was like the reincarnation of the Tiananmen protests.

And for China, the generation of the protesters and the people who were influenced by Tiananmen have been the backbone of the civil society movement ever since. The Democratic Party [of China] in 1998 and later the Rights Defender movement. A lot of them were inspired by the Tiananmen movement — including the 709 lawyers, Xu Zhiyong, Liu Xiaobo and the Christian house church movement.

What motivates you after 30 years of activism?

First of all, I am a survivor. So many people died for such a great hope, for a better China. I have to carry on. It’s mostly lonely work. Most of the people [like me] are living in isolation. But on the other hand, over these years, I was able to know of so many amazing stories of these people. It’s like you’re walking through the dark. You don’t know where the light is. But all of a sudden you see someone else who was struggling and was carrying on the same ideals as you.

Moscow’s peaceful protests enrage the Kremlin because its only tool is violence
By Alexey Kovalev

What makes Moscow’s protests unique is the almost surreal peacefulness on the protesters’ part. State propaganda chose the familiar route of justifying police violence: look, TV pundits and officials said, in Paris, Hamburg and Hong Kong riot police used teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets, seriously injuring some, so we’re going easy on you! These false equivalences couldn’t be less relevant. Unlike Paris, not a single shop window in Moscow has been smashed, not a single car torched. State media talked about business losses caused by the protests, but failed to mention that it was Moscow’s authorities that ordered cafes and shops to shut down (and even degraded cellular service in the city centre on purpose).

And unlike the gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests’) grand demands, the opposition’s goals seem almost insignificant in comparison: let opposition candidates stand in the Moscow City Duma – council – elections on 8 September. The crisis could have been averted at any point in the past few weeks without any major consequences for the authorities: independent candidates, some of whom are associated with Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, could have been registered to compete in the election and lose; some could even win a token seat in one of the most powerless local assemblies in Russia, which until now very few people cared about: the turnout at the 2014 elections was about 20%. It’s not uncommon for opposition candidates to win local elections, only to be co-opted or quietly unseated later.

Nonviolent resistance proves potent weapon
By Michelle Nicholasen

WCFIA: In your co-authored book, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,” you explain clearly why civil resistance campaigns attract more absolute numbers of people — in part it’s because there’s a much lower barrier to participation compared with picking up a weapon. Based on the cases you have studied, what are the key elements necessary for a successful nonviolent campaign?

CHENOWETH: I think it really boils down to four different things. The first is a large and diverse participation that’s sustained.

The second thing is that [the movement] needs to elicit loyalty shifts among security forces in particular, but also other elites. Security forces are important because they ultimately are the agents of repression, and their actions largely decide how violent the confrontation with — and reaction to — the nonviolent campaign is going to be in the end. But there are other security elites, economic and business elites, state media. There are lots of different pillars that support the status quo, and if they can be disrupted or coerced into noncooperation, then that’s a decisive factor.

The third thing is that the campaigns need to be able to have more than just protests; there needs to be a lot of variation in the methods they use.

The fourth thing is that when campaigns are repressed — which is basically inevitable for those calling for major changes — they don’t either descend into chaos or opt for using violence themselves. If campaigns allow their repression to throw the movement into total disarray or they use it as a pretext to militarize their campaign, then they’re essentially co-signing what the regime wants — for the resisters to play on its own playing field. And they’re probably going to get totally crushed.

WCFIA: You make the surprising claim that even when they fail, civil resistance campaigns often lead to longer-term reforms than violent campaigns do. How does that work?

CHENOWETH: The finding is that civil resistance campaigns often lead to longer-term reforms and changes that bring about democratization compared with violent campaigns. Countries in which there were nonviolent campaigns were about 10 times likelier to transition to democracies within a five-year period compared to countries in which there were violent campaigns — whether the campaigns succeeded or failed. This is because even though they “failed” in the short term, the nonviolent campaigns tended to empower moderates or reformers within the ruling elites who gradually began to initiate changes and liberalize the polity.

One of the best examples of this is the Kefaya movement in the early 2000s in Egypt. Although it failed in the short term, the experiences of different activists during that movement surely informed the ability to effectively organize during the 2011 uprisings in Egypt. Another example is the 2007 Saffron Revolution in Myanmar, which was brutally suppressed at the time but which ultimately led to voluntary democratic reforms by the government by 2012. Of course, this doesn’t mean that nonviolent campaigns always lead to democracies — or even that democracy is a cure-all for political strife. As we know, in Myanmar, relative democratization in the country’s institutions has been accompanied by extreme violence against the Rohingya community there. But it’s important to note that such cases are the exceptions rather than the norm. And democratization processes tend to be much bumpier when they occur after large-scale armed conflict instead of civil resistance campaigns, as was the case in Myanmar.

The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world
By David Robson

There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics – by a long way.

Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Ultimately, she would like our history books to pay greater attention to nonviolent campaigns rather than concentrating so heavily on warfare. “So many of the histories that we tell one another focus on violence – and even if it is a total disaster, we still find a way to find victories within it,” she says. Yet we tend to ignore the success of peaceful protest, she says.

“Ordinary people, all the time, are engaging in pretty heroic activities that are actually changing the way the world – and those deserve some notice and celebration as well.”

Two Women, Heroes for Our Age
By Nicholas Kristof

Amnesty International reports that Iran arrested more than 7,000 dissidents last year and that the 38-year combined sentence for Sotoudeh, if true, is the harshest imposed against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years. Iran state media suggested that she had been given a shorter sentence, but Sotoudeh and her family have much more credibility than Iran’s government.

“The shockingly harsh sentence against her is a signal of just how unnerved the Iranian authorities have become,” Kumi Naidoo, the secretary general of Amnesty International, told me. He noted that women’s rights activists in Iran have become bolder, sometimes waving their head scarves on a stick and posting videos on social media.

“With this cruel sentence, the Iranian authorities appear to be seeking to make an example of Nasrin Sotoudeh and to intimidate other women’s rights defenders,” he said.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, was separately sentenced in January to six years in prison, for posting updates about his wife’s case on Facebook. The couple has two children, a 12-year-old son named Nima and a 19-year-old daughter named Mehraveh. Hadi Ghaemi of the Center for Human Rights in Iran said that relatives may now have to raise Nima and Mehraveh.

“My dearest Mehraveh,” Sotoudeh once wrote her daughter from prison, “you were my main motivation for pursuing children’s rights. … Every time I came home from court, after having defended an abused child, I would hold you and your brother in my arms, finding it hard to let go of your embrace.”

Likewise she wrote to Nima last fall, explaining why she was in jail rather than with him on his first day of the school year. “How could I witness the execution of juveniles in my country and be silent? How could I close my eyes to child abuse cases?”

“I just couldn’t, my son.” She added, “That was my sin.”

Here’s my message to Nima and Mehraveh: Your mom is a hero! She inspires people like me worldwide, and no imprisonment or flogging can change that. She will be remembered in history, like Loujain al-Hathloul, as a moral leader, perhaps Nobel Peace Prize winner, who confronted tyrants and changed the world for the better.

Democracy Demotion
By Larry Diamond

The most effective way to counter Chinese and Russian propaganda is to report the truth about how the two gigantic countries are really governed. These facts and analyses must then be broadly and innovatively conveyed, within China, Russia, and other closed societies, and also within more open societies that, as targets of Chinese and Russian propaganda efforts, are no longer receiving a full and true picture of the nature of those regimes.

Transparency can also play a role in the fight for democracy. The soft underbelly of all malign autocracies, including China and Russia, is their deep and incurable corruption. No state can truly control corruption without instituting the rule of law. But that would be unthinkable for both countries—because in China, it would mean subordinating the party to an independent judiciary, and because in Russia, the regime is an organized crime ring masquerading as a state. Yet leading democracies have some leverage, because much of the staggering personal wealth generated by corruption pours into the banks, corporate structures, and real estate markets of the United States and Europe through legal loopholes that benefit only a privileged few. These loopholes allow dictators and their cronies to stash and launder dirty money in and through anonymous shell companies and anonymous real estate purchases. The United States, for its part, can legislate an end to these practices by simply requiring that all company and trust registrations and all real estate purchases in the United States report the true beneficial owners involved. It can also ban former U.S. officials and members of Congress from lobbying for foreign governments and enhance the legal authority and resources of agencies such as the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to detect and prosecute money laundering.

Finally, if the United States is going to win the global battle for democracy, it has to start at home. People around the world must once again come to see the United States as a democracy worthy of emulation. That will not happen if Congress remains gridlocked, if American society is divided into warring political camps, if election campaigns continue to drown in “dark money,” if the two parties brazenly gerrymander electoral districts to maximum partisan advantage, and if one political party comes to be associated with unrelenting efforts to suppress the vote of racial and ethnic minorities.

This is not the first time that global freedom has been under threat. Back in 1946, as the Cold War was coming into view, the diplomat George Kennan sent his famous “Long Telegram” from the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Kennan urged the United States to grasp with clarity the diffuse nature of the authoritarian threat, strengthen the collective military resolve and capacity of democracies to confront and deter authoritarian ambition, and do whatever it could to separate the corrupt authoritarian rulers from their people.

But Kennan also understood something else: that the greatest asset of the United States was its democracy and that it must find the “courage and self-confidence” to adhere to its convictions and avoid becoming “like those with whom [it is] coping.” Kennan advised: “Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society … is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués.”

Today, as the United States confronts not a single determined authoritarian rival but two, Kennan’s counsel deserves remembering. The United States stands at a precipice, facing a time when freedom and democracy will be tested. It remains, within the world’s vast web of alliances and organizations, the indispensable democracy. Now, as much as ever, the fate of American democracy is bound up with the global struggle for freedom. And the outcome of that struggle depends on Americans renewing the quality of their own democracy and their faith in its worth and promise.

What I Learned from Listening to Americans Deliberate
By Larry Diamond (PDF, 3.51MB)

Working with the problem-solving institution Helena, the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, and By the People Productions (a democratic dialogue initiative), we brought 526 registered voters to Dallas last weekend to deliberate on the five issues that polling has identified as of greatest concern to the public: the economy, healthcare, the environment, immigration, and foreign policy. We called the event “America in One Room.” Many in the sample were initially wary of the whole idea, wondering what kind of timeshare scheme would be pushed on them when they arrived for the “deliberation.” Some people had to be contacted four and five times before they were finally persuaded–through NORC’s patience and persistence–that we simply wanted to know their opinions through a process we thought would be deeper and more meaningful than a one-off opinion survey. In this way, we were able to obtain a sample that is remarkably representative of the electorate’s diversity with respect to gender, age, education, ethnicity, sexual orientation, party, and ideology.

… here are some things I learned during those four days that can’t be fully captured by the numbers.

  1. Ordinary Americans do not want to be as bitterly divided as their parties, political campaigns, and media are driving them to be. They are pained to the point of being traumatized by the current level of partisan polarization, and they are begging for relief. Reaching across all kinds of divides in Dallas–and not just in the group issue discussions but in deeply personal exchanges over dinner and drinks as well–they found some common ground. And they wanted to know why their politicians can’t do so as well. A heavily tattooed older man from Colorado with a gray beard, long gray hair, and a tall cowboy hat, asked, “If 500 people can get together–from different ages, races, geographic regions, with conflicting opinions–why can’t. . .our Congress do that?”
  2. Good conditions really do matter. Most of the small groups (which were about the size of a jury) spanned across America’s partisan, ideological, racial, and other identity divides. But when they were able to sit together in a room and talk about issues as individuals, rather than as warring red and blue tribes, something changed. At least they came to understand where their fellow Americans were coming from. A retired schoolteacher from Mariposa County, California, told me: “It’s become dangerous to express your view. But if you get people out of their places, with moderators and parameters. . .[it’s different.]” Said a middle-aged man from Wisconsin: “I didn’t know who was a Democrat, who was Republican, and who an independent. People just shared their views. That made it much easier to listen and have respectful exchange.”
  3. Americans are fed up with the politics of personal destruction. Pretty soon into the experiment, it was clear to all of us that they just didn’t want to hear it any more. The one time that a delegate went negative in the plenary–by alluding to Governor Mark Sanford’s alibi of a hike on the Appalachian Trail to cover up his extramarital affair–his fellow delegates made their displeasure loudly known. “We’ve really liked the fact,” said a woman from Ohio, that (save for that Sanford moment) “this hasn’t focused on the personalities; its been about the issues. That breaks the norm.”
  4. Americans welcome a spirit of civility and bipartisanship. Over and over, people remarked to me about how refreshing it was to hear contending policy experts from different parties or ideological orientations discuss the issues in a friendly and mutually respectful way, without feeling compelled to always disagree, disparage, or destroy the other side. In fact, delegates were disarmed by the spirit of good will (and even occasional humor) that leavened the policy debate on taxes and the economy between Jared Bernstein (former economic policy advisor to Vice-President Biden) and Douglas Holtz-Eakin (former chief economic advisor to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign), and by the significant common ground on foreign policy issues between former Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and former George W. Bush national security staffer Kori Schake.
  5. Ordinary people want to understand the issues better, and they appreciate balanced and accessible means to do so. Joyce, from Torrance, California, told me, “I’m leaving a changed person. I thought I was reasonably informed, but I wasn’t. I heave learned so much about the issues that I didn’t know. I will now follow them more closely.”
  6. People are ready to re-think their views in the face of fresh evidence. A young African American woman told me she had gravitated toward a more nuanced and gradual stance on the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. “When I took the first survey,” she said, “I thought it was a great idea. But you learn it could really hurt small business.”
  7. Americans have not given up on their democracy, and their faith in it can be restored. As they were leaving last Sunday, many said they were honored to have been chosen for the exercise, and that it had restored their faith and pride in American democracy. One was Jackie, an elementary school teacher from Tennessee. “I’m coming away much more informed, energized, and proud to be part of this country,” she said. “This made me realize, we all want the same things, to be safe and valued, to have this be a great country.”
  8. Everybody wants to be treated with respect. And this ethic–constantly nurtured and reinforced from beginning to end in Dallas–was vital to the success of America in One Room. Heather, from University City, Missouri, told me, “I have had the first civil conversation about politics that I have had in a very long time. Because on Facebook, they just call me names.” Reggie, an African-American from the San Diego area, said of his small group, “We all listened to one another and respected their viewpoints. In the end, that’s all anybody wants, to be heard and understood.”

Not everything went quite as smoothly as we had planned. A few of the moderators we had recruited to facilitate and umpire the small group discussions didn’t make it to Dallas. A few others fell out during the daylong training in advance of the event. Fortunately, some remarkable volunteers came forward to replace them. These were Stanford undergraduates who had come to observe the proceedings and provide logistical support. They had just taken our class on democratic deliberation, and had done mock deliberations on each of the five issues. In the process, they had mastered our 55-page briefing book on the issues and had learned how to deliberate respectfully across divides. They had also just gone through the moderator training the day before. Hence, they proved skillful and fair-minded facilitators of the small group discussions.

One of our student moderators was an Asian American whose parents had emigrated to the United States. He was needled by some of the 13 participants in his racially diverse group, which included some quite conservative views on issues like immigration. Several participants wanted to reduce the number of refugees and the total number of immigrants admitted to the U.S. And they wondered: Who was this young moderator? What were his views? One elderly white participant probed, “Are you a Russian spy?” At one point they asked–maybe half-jokingly–to see his passport or driver’s license. Instead of taking the bait or becoming unnerved, he simply kept moving the conversations along impartially.

In order not to bias the deliberations, our moderators had been strictly instructed not to reveal anything about themselves until their sessions were finished and the participants had completed the final survey. At that point, our student moderator told them his family story. “My grandparents escaped communist China rule in Tibet in the early 1960s. My parents were born in refugee settlements in India in 1960s and moved to America in the 1990s. My parents have two children born in the United States. Their youngest son is a junior in the most racially diverse high school in Oregon, and is on track to being the valedictorian. Their oldest son graduated as valedictorian and is now a sophomore at Stanford University. My name in Tenzin Kartsang and I have been your moderator.” They all applauded.

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