Monday, 7 March 2011

January’s US-China Summit

The US print media and US-China relations, during President Hu’s State Visit


With Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington, the relationship between America and China has been the subject of intense media scrutiny. This flurry of coverage provides an ideal opportunity to examine this relationship, and also to explore the concerns and conflicts in the media’s continued impression of China. It would appear that the American media have yet to move beyond the events of Tiananmen. This is partly the result of Congressional long-memories (making China a surprising anomaly in Congressional discourse), but also because many of the same issues resonate throughout US-China relations: China’s approach to human rights remains inimical to America’s professed values, economic relations are increasing every year, trade disputes remain, and security concerns – whether Taiwan-related or concerning the implications of China’s military build-up – are growing.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

“Zero-Sum Future” by Gideon Rachman (Simon & Schuster)


American Power in the an Age of Anxiety

From the chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times comes a stark warning about a gathering global political crisis. Successive presidents have welcomed globalization and the rise of China. But with American unemployment stubbornly high and U.S. power facing new challenges, the stage is set for growing rivalry between America and China. The European Union is also ripping itself apart. The win-win logic of globalization is giving way to a zero-sum logic of political and economic struggle.

The new world we now live in, an age of anxiety, is a less prosperous, less stable world, with old ideas overthrown and new ideologies and powers on the rise. Rachman shows how zero-sum logic is thwarting efforts to deal with global problems from Afghanistan to unemployment, climate change to nuclear proliferation. This timely and important book details why international politics is now more dangerous and volatile—and suggests what can be done to break away from the crippling logic of a zero-sum world.

In Zero-Sum Future Gideon Rachman provides a timely and very well-written volume on the state of the world today, and the dangers inherent in the rise of increased zero-sum thinking in global politics. The book offers good summaries of all the major issues and the major political and economic developments in key regions of the world. Despite the blurb, one of the books strengths is also that it does not solely focus on the US and China, but provides a broad picture of international development and history.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

“Theories of International Politics & Zombies” by Daniel W. Drezner (Princeton)

Drezner-TheoriesOfIR&ZombiesThe Best Book ever written about International Politics?

What would happen to international politics if the dead rose from the grave and started to eat the living? Daniel Drezner’s ground-breaking book answers the question that other international relations scholars have been too scared to ask. Addressing timely issues with analytical bite, Drezner looks at how well-known IR theories might be applied to a war with zombies. Exploring the plots of popular zombie films, songs, and books, Drezner predicts realistic scenarios for the political stage in the face of a zombie threat and considers how valid – or how rotten – such scenarios might be.

Drezner boldly lurches into the breach and “stress tests” the ways that different approaches to world politics would explain policy responses to the living dead. He examines the most prominent international relations theories – including realism, liberalism, constructivism, neoconservatism, and bureaucratic politics – and decomposes their predictions. He digs into prominent zombie films and novels, such as Night of the Living Dead and World War Z, to see where essential theories hold up and where they would stumble and fall. Drezner argues that by thinking about outside-of-the-box threats we get a cognitive grip on what former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously referred to as the “unknown unknowns” in international security.

Correcting the zombie gap in international relations thinking and addressing the genuine but publicly unacknowledged fear of the dead rising from the grave, Theories of International Politics and Zombies presents political tactics and strategies accessible enough for any zombie to digest. [Back Copy]

In August 2009, Professor Drezner, who blogs for Foreign Policy magazine, wrote a short piece about how international relations theories might apply in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. Not only did Drezner do it very well, and in a manner that should make anyone familiar with IR theory chuckle, but it also opened up the possibility that those who automatically shudder at the word ‘theory’ could actually understand and enjoy what Drezner was writing about, and gain an understanding of IR theory in the process. It was the perfect vehicle to bring a greater understanding of the theories that inform international interactions to a wider audience: it was fun, intelligent and quirky, and therefore likely to stick in one’s mind. [As someone who has taught Intro to IR Theory, I can tell you that this is very important.]