Featuring the best comments by Interpreter readers, as selected by the editors.
Part 1 of Robert Kelly's two-part series on the similarities and differences between China today and Wilhelmine Germany brought this response from JFS:
Interesting post on a much discussed topic, looking forward to your next post. One note, though--the link in your first contrast is the book "Cultural Realism" by Iain Johnston. The thesis of the book, though, is actually the opposite of what you imply. In it Johnston labels two paradigms that inform Chinese thinking about war: a Confucian-Mencian paradigm that favors defensive policies and a 'parabellum' (prepare for war) paradigm that argues military destruction of the enemy is necessary for state survival. Unfortunately for your analogy, Johnston's conclusion is that the parabellum paradigm takes primacy in Chinese strategic thinking, and so is closer in line with German views about the efficacy of war in the late 19th/early 20th century.
Here's Robert Kelly's reply:
Yes, that is correct. And I do actually note that in the second post. Sorry if it came off as slippery here. Was not my intention. I reference Cultural Realism here only to direct the reader to the discussion of strategic culture in China. In my experience with Chinese IR scholars, they frequently tell me that Chinese strategic culture is different than in the West. AIJ's book is the best on this issue, so I referenced, but you are right that I may give the wrong impression. Thanks for catching that.
Last week's piece by Tess Newton Cain on no-confidence motions in Pacific parliaments also led to an exchange between reader and author. Here's an extract from David Lambourne's comment:
Unfortunately the strongly clientelistic nature of politics in the Pacific, coupled with weak party structures, leads to frequent and disruptive motions of no confidence. As an outside observer, it is hard to see how any Vanuatu government in recent years has ever had a chance to build any sort of momentum towards implementing policy. It seems as if every time a Government does get some traction, the other side launches a motion of no confidence and all resources are then diverted to fending off the challenge. There is also the issue of the cost to the public purse every time there is a change of Minister - I understand that the outgoing Minister and/or his political staff are entitled to all sorts of 'severance' payments. This can't be healthy.
Tess Newton Cain's reply:
David, thanks for your comment and particularly for the expansion of the discussion to include the Kiribati situation which is really illuminating. I referenced the fact that managing the ongoing threat of removal by way of motions of no confidence is a distraction from policy formulation and implementation. And without wishing to detract from that I think it's worth recognising that in many Pacific island countries there are very few policy cleavages between parties. In Vanuatu there are indeed many parties, most of which have been created as a result of schisms in older parties with most of those relating to struggles for leadership not disagreements on policy platforms. There is certainly more to be said on this and lots of other aspects of 'doing democracy' in the Pacific region. I'm looking forward to discussing these issues further with you and others. Here's a question I've been pondering for a while: what, if anything, can be done to strengthen the role of the opposition(s) as a way of reducing political instability, improving policy debates and enhancing the roles and credibility of parliaments more generally?