Monthly Archives: September 2012

Notes for Lecture Two

The Powerpoint file for Lecture Two may be found here.


Screening of “$upercapitalist”

For my undergraduate class on “Hong Kong and the World”, I have arranged a special session on Monday, 8 October, from 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm, to screen the newly released independent film “$upercapitalist” – a finance-themed thriller that was shot in New York, Hong Kong and Macau. The venue is Meng Wah T3 (Alas, in the now unfashionable Main Campus). We will be joined after the screening by the movie’s producer, screenwriter and lead actor Derek Ting for a discussion of the film and its portrayal of Hong Kong. (Read reviews of the film here.) Reuters editor Chrystia Freeland writes that “‘Supercapitalist’, which moves from boardrooms and shipping yards to casinos and bars filled with call girls, does a fine job conveying the mood of a city in the throes of rapid economic transformation.” She adds: “Mr Ting has made a film that raises some provocative political questions, but his personal agenda is entirely artistic: He set out to tell ‘a universal, human story.’ His ethical ranking of business, with the money- changers emphatically at the bottom, is an instinctive choice, not an intellectual one. That says a lot about current views on the subject, even on one of the world’s most energetic capitalist frontiers.”

Please join us for this screening. Feel free to spread the word and bring your friends and others who may be interested in watching what should be an intriguing film and having an interesting discussion with Mr Ting.

Emotions in International Relations

In class yesterday, I mentioned that there have been recent attempts to interpret international relations in novel ways beyond the mainstream frameworks. In 1993, Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington shook up the IR community when he wrote about what he viewed as a coming “clash of civilizations”. The provocative concept has continued to be debated even now – nearly four years since Huntington died.

In class, I noted the connection that IR theorists have made between realism and the “tragedy”. Consider John J. Mearsheimer’s 2001 book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which looks at the concept of “offensive realism”. (Read another review of the book here and this 2004 interview with Mearsheimer.)

More recently, as I noted, there has been some discussion in IR circles about the “culture of emotions”. In 2007, French political scientist Dominique Moïsi wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs on what he called “The Clash of Emotions”, in which he discusses how he sees fear, humiliation and hope driving geopolitical relations:

Thirteen years ago, Samuel Huntington argued that a “clash of civilizations” was about to dominate world politics, with culture, along with national interests and political ideology, becoming a geopolitical fault line (“The Clash of Civilizations?” Summer 1993). Events since then have proved Huntington’s vision more right than wrong. Yet what has not been recognized sufficiently is that today the world faces what might be called a “clash of emotions” as well. The Western world displays a culture of fear, the Arab and Muslim worlds are trapped in a culture of humiliation, and much of Asia displays a culture of hope.

Instead of being united by their fears, the twin pillars of the West, the United States and Europe, are more often divided by them — or rather, divided by how best to confront or transcend them. The culture of humiliation, in contrast, helps unite the Muslim world around its most radical forces and has led to a culture of hatred. The chief beneficiaries of the deadly encounter between the forces of fear and the forces of humiliation are the bystanders in the culture of hope, who have been able to concentrate on creating a better future for themselves.

These moods, of course, are not universal within each region, and there are some areas, such as Russia and parts of Latin America, that seem to display all of them simultaneously. But their dynamics and interactions will help shape the world for years to come.

This essay was the basis of a 2009 book by Moïsi – The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World


Lifting Myanmar Sanctions: Carrot-and-Stick Diplomacy

The announcement that the US is lifting its longstanding ban on imports from Myanmar, known also as Burma, is yet further evidence that the Southeast Asian nation’s political and economic reforms have been well received in the West. Washington had already removed the prohibition on American investment in Myanmar. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on a visit to the US, as is Myanmar President U Thein Sein, had supported the easing of sanctions. The question is whether these sanctions had any effect in convincing Myanmar’s military rulers to implement political and economic reforms and to release political prisoners including Suu Kyi. Indeed, do sanctions work? Are they working in Iran, in North Korea?

Some argue that economic sanctions can be effective, if certain conditions are met. Others argue that they only hurt the people of the affected countries and not the leadership. In Myanmar’s case, it could be argued that the military’s decision to pursue reforms has been motivated by regional strategic interests rather than by the sanctions. There is no denying, however, that Myanmar has moved quickly to open up – but are the reforms for real? The next three years will reveal the answer to that important question.

In and Out 2: Canadian Reaction to East Asia Summit Rebuff

As a follow up to the earlier post about the rebuff of Canada’s request to join the East Asia Summit (EAS), you might read this essay by Hugh Stephens, a former Canadian diplomat who worked for Time Warner in Hong Kong for many years and is now executive-in-residence at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in Vancouver. Stephens’s conclusion:

Hillary Clinton famously quoted the Woody Allen maxim that 80% of success is just showing up to explain her commitment to face-to-face diplomacy, especially in Asia. But the U.S. has the kind of assets in play that give real substance to the presence of their officials. Now that Canada has decided to show up more often, there is also a need for some substance — evidence of long term commitment and resources — behind the presence. That was Dr. Surin’s message. Having neglected its Asian connections, and allowed its brand to decline over the past decade and a half, Canada now has to earn its way back into the key councils of Asia. Just showing up is not enough.