Sunday Readings

China’s Economic Slowdown Leads To Crackdown On Human Rights
The slowdown of China’s economy obviously has an impact on global trade and investment. Some are asking the question of whether it also has implications in other aspects.

Su-Mei Ooi and Patrick Poon write in The Diplomat that a halting of China’s economy also affects human rights in a regime that is not know for having a good record in that respect.

They note that figures compiled by by Chinese media expert and online activist Wen Yunchao, and Xu’s friend and legal scholar-activist Teng Biao show that more than 100 dissidents have been detained or arrested in the first six months of this year and the number of detained activists is increasing.

“This wave of arrests and detentions of activists that emphasize citizens’ rights and call for greater government accountability is telling. China has been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth for the last five quarters. Projected fears of what the future holds for China’s economy might explain heightened sensitivities to grassroots demands to deal seriously with seemingly intractable governance issues that are likely to drag seriously on growth when investment-led strategies are no longer feasible. On the one hand, any serious fight against corruption will require the support of party elders in the CPC; on the other, the failure to grapple with the problem over the years has already begun to spook international investors,” they write.

Does France Want To Regain Its Standing In The Middle East?
While some may still be scratching their heads at France’s tough stand on loosening sanctions on Iran and on taking action in Syria, others see it as a clear sign that France is seeking to reassert its onetime role in the Middle East. Leon Hadar

“It is thus not surprising that France is having growing doubts about the willingness and the ability of the United States to continue pursuing a Pax Americana in the Middle East. Like Israel and Saudi Arabia, it regards a nuclear Iran as a direct threat to its national security and like those two countries, Paris may be coming to the conclusion that its interests and those of the United States are at odds when it comes to Iran,” Hadar, an analyst with the geo-strategic consulting firm Wikstrat, argues.

The retreat of the US could also change the dynamic between France and Israel.

“It’s not inconceivable that the divergence in American and French interests in the Middle East, coupled with the response in France and other European countries to the pressure of immigration from the Middle East — which in turn could bring to power right-wing nationalist governments — may lead to growing cooperation between Israel and France as part of a strategy to combat Iran.

“But Israelis should recall that the Franco-Israeli cooperation in the 1950s that was aimed against Egyptian Nasserism ended when the French, after granting independence to Algeria, re-established ties with Egypt and distanced themselves from Jerusalem. As the French say, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same).”

However, for France to aggressively pursue its goals in the Middle East, Hadar contends, will require “changing French national priorities: increasing defense spending, strengthening military cooperation with other European Union (EU) governments and reassessing its relationship with Israel.”

Humanitarian Missions Prove Advantageous In Effort To Boost Image Of US Military Abroad
A disaster is always a tricky public relations challenge, but for the US military it is a win-win situation. Whether responding to typhoons in the Philippine islands to famine in Africa, the role of the US military in providing humanitarian assistance is often underplayed, but also is a critical component to US foreign policy, writes the Associated Press’ Eric Talmadge.
Obama And The Pentagon: A Complicated And Tense Relationship
Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official in the Obama administration, looks behind the curtain to unveil the dynamics of the complicated and tense relationship between the President and Pentagon leadership.

“Indeed, most of the military leaders I interviewed said they believed that  military recommendations often go unheeded by senior White House staff, who now  assume that a risk-averse Pentagon exaggerates every difficulty and inflates  every request for troops or money.

This assumption turns discussions into antagonistic negotiating sessions. As  one retired general puts it, ‘If you said, ‘We need 40,000 troops,’ they’d  immediately say, ‘20,000.’ Not because they thought that was the right number,  but they just took it for granted that any number coming from the military was  inflated,'” she details.





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