This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

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Is a Storm Brewing in the Taiwan Strait? (£)

Michael Mazza

Foreign Affairs

On June 24, in her first interview with Western media in well over a year, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.” These are remarkably strong words for a president of the Republic of China (Taiwan)—even for Tsai, a member of the notionally independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Since Tsai was elected in 2016, she has remained committed to the status quo in cross-strait relations, despite what she called in her interview “immense pressure” from Beijing. This means maintaining de facto rather than de jure independence for Taiwan, conducting cross-strait affairs in accordance with the ROC constitution and extant legislation, and respecting previously negotiated cross-strait agreements.

Beijing, on the other hand, has intensified its efforts to unify Taiwan and mainland China under Beijing’s “one China” principle. In response to the 2016 election in Taiwan—in which the DPP gained simultaneous control of the executive and legislative branches for the first time—Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately launched a pressure campaign on the island, beginning even while the relatively China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou government was still in office. In the 35 months since Tsai’s victory, Beijing has cut off official communications across the strait, stolen Taipei’s diplomatic allies, used economic leverage to punish Taiwan, ensured Taiwan’s exclusion from international forums, and increased the pace and scope of military exercises in the waters surrounding the island. Xi shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. (Read more)


Zimbabwe was united. This election has divided us again

Blessing-Miles Tendi

The Guardian

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has been declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election. But his margin of victory – he garnered 50.8% of the votes – has led the main challenger, Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (who secured 44% of the votes), to describe the result as rigged.

Now questions are being asked about what the poll outcome means for Zimbabwe’s future, and the political debate is already rapidly shifting.

Last November, when the military coup led to Robert Mugabe being replaced as president by Mnangagwa, many in the west were unwilling to condemn it. They saw Mugabe as the key impediment to economic and political reform and looked to the staging of a free, fair and credible poll in 2018 as an important step towards re-engagement with the country. (Read more)


‘We’re both outsiders’: Trump casts himself and Italy’s populist prime minister as kindred spirits

David Nakamura and Anne Gearan

Washington Post

President Trump on Monday praised Italy’s populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for striking a hard line on immigration and used his visit to the White House to reiterate a threat to shut down the federal government over border-control funding.

Trump and Conte, who was installed last month to lead an anti-establishment coalition government, expressed camaraderie on a range of issues, billing themselves as kindred spirits in their bids to upset the status quo.

During a joint news conference, Trump said he is the “most closely aligned” with Conte over any of the other five leaders in the Group of Seven nations, which include U.S. allies France, Germany and Britain. The two first met at the G-7 summit in Canada last month, where Trump disrupted what had typically been a close-knit economic dialogue by abruptly yanking support for a joint statement after the conference. (Read more)


The anti-imperial empire? (£)

David Armitage

Times Literary Supplement

The United States has long been the peakaboo empire: now you see it, now you don’t. The American empire comes into focus at moments of stress or success – the Spanish–American War, the Second World War, 9/11, the Second Gulf War – but fades away when the crisis abates. Empire-talk has tracked these peaks and troughs: it ramped up during the second Bush presidency but then fell off markedly during the Obama years. It has barely returned under the Trump administration, despite all its bluster about “making America great again”, the President’s frustrated inability to detach himself from his predecessors’ military commitments, and the country’s seeming death-struggle with China for global hegemony. Where are the empire analysts of yesteryear? When, if ever, will the American empire reappear? (Read more)


The Venezuelan exodus: placing Latin America in the global conversation on migration management

Nicolas Parent and Luisa Feline Freier

LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre Blog

Though media and politicians in the Global North have condemned Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and denounced the political conditions which have wrought socioeconomic horrors on the country since 2014, they have not been so swift to tune into regional responses to the resulting migratory outflows.

With respect to social science research, there are very few migration scholars who have written on topic. Reflecting the well-established divide between the Global North and South in the production of knowledge, migration scholars in the West typically focus on international South-North migration.

As public and political awareness affects not only the global conversation on forced migration but also policy responses, there is a need to place the Venezuelan exodus – the largest forced displacement of people in the history of Latin America – in the conversation on global migration management, as is clear when we compare it to the European migration crisis (2014-2016). (Read more)


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