The US presidential campaign continued to dominate news this week, with Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump winning the Democratic and Republican primaries in New Hampshire. The Interpreter carried several articles on the results, but Emma Connors concentrated on the question of whether Michael Bloomberg would run:
How would a Bloomberg run affect the race? If you look at the polling available, you'd have to say the results are inconclusive. A Bloomberg Politics Des Moines Register poll of Iowa voters a few weeks ago found half of Republican caucus-goers didn't like him, or in pollster speak, had an unfavourable view. That fell to 26% among Democrat caucus goers but only 17% indicated they liked the man. A nationwide poll conducted by well known pollster Frank Luntz, however, concluded 29% of Americans would support Bloomberg in a theoretical three-way race between the former mayor, Donald Trump, and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Turning to another topic to do with America, Stephen Grenville reviewed a recent book by Robert Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth:
Let's not be too glum. Maybe it is time for those of us in the mature economies to accept that we are already producing enough things and switch focus onto correcting income distribution (one of Gordon's 'headwinds'), making sure everyone gets a good education (another 'headwind') and putting less strain on nature and the climate. But the adaptation to diminished expectations will not be easy, especially at the political level. There are some big implications for foreign relations as well.
Michael Fullilove has written a two-part series on his trip to Cuba:
By chance, I was staying in the room next to his. The advantage of this situation was a nice view eastwards towards Plaza de Armas (the best place in town to buy revolutionary kitsch) and Morro Castle, the Spanish-era fort that guards the entrance to Havana harbour. This is the same view Hemingway enjoyed while he wrote several of his novels. The disadvantage was the crowd of foreign tourists always to be found lingering outside my door waiting for a tour of Hemingway's room. They always seemed disappointed when I emerged into the corridor, rather than Papa.
A stunning response to a Washington Post editorial from Aaron Connelly:
The Post's objection to the inclusion of leaders from undemocratic countries in the region overlooks ASEAN's importance, and by extension, the importance of institutions in American diplomacy. Beijing may see the region's future as merely a contest of economic and military power. Washington, for whom the institutions of the liberal international order are of critical importance, should not. It is not enough to trade, invest, and send military assistance to Southeast Asian countries. It is essential that we also support the institutions that bolster their autonomy, and thus the liberal order.
Peter Layton wrote on air superiority in Asia and the RAAF's aging classic F-18 Hornets:
Meanwhile in 2020, two-thirds of the RAAF's fighters will still be the 1980s classic Hornets. This was not as originally intended. The last of these should have left service last year but with the F-35 delayed, this now looksmore like 2022. Well done, then, former Defence Minster Brendan Nelson in disregarding RAAF advice and acquiring 24 Super Hornets when difficulties with the F-35 program first became apparent. This purchase has allowed some semblance of regional technological air superiority capability to be maintained.
Sarah Frankel has written a series of posts explaining the UN Secretary-General election process and outlining the candidates so far:
Led by an alliance of NGOs known as 1 for 7 billion, SG reform advocates have been lobbying for various changes including: a formal nomination process with clear deadlines and job qualifications; a single, non-renewable, seven-year term; engagement with the candidates; and for the Security Council to nominate more than one candidate. Bowing to the calls for reform, the presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly issued a joint letter in December 2015 soliciting candidates and offering opportunities for informal dialogues and meetings. This was the first time the UN has officially kicked off the selection process. Critics say it's a small improvement in a largely broken system.
What would happen to the UK's economy if it were to exit the EU? Michael Martins:
Nobody knows whether this will occur either in the run-up to the referendum or after the vote – whichever way it goes. However, like all good central banks, the Bank of England is taking no chances. Figures released this week revealed it had increased its foreign currency holdings by one-third to $98 billion in the last twelve months. Incidentally, the Bank's entire holdings are worth less than the amount the Chinese central bank, People's Bank of China (PBOC), sold off in January alone (although the PBOC took that action mainly to maintain an effective peg against the US dollar, not to guard against a currency run).
Jiyoung Song wrote on the 'duelling forces' in Australia's migration policy:
In Australia, the projected population by 2050 is 38 million. The Migration Council Australia finds that migration will have added 15.7% to the workforce participation rate, 21.9% to after tax real wages for low-skilled workers, and 5.9% in GDP per capita growth.
Modern Australia is built by migrants. We’re all migrants or children of migrants. If relied solely on the current fertility rate, Australia would not be able to sustain its current global rankings. We shouldn't talk about our future prosperity and success solely in terms of GDP growth. It is also about resilience, diversity and adaptability, all of which are needed to maintain comparative advantage in a rapidly changing world, and all of which migration brings.
What shape is Taiwan in militarily after the recent election? Wu Shang-Su:
However, promises of economic development and social welfare made by Taiwan's newly elected president Tsai Ing-wen, especially when combined with the government's detoriating financial capacity, will not leave much room for increased military spending. Furthermore, most of the DPP's new legislators appear to have little interest in defence, which suggests it will be a low priority for the new administration. While the DPP Administration could begin some projects, such as the indigenous submarine and combat aircraft, these investments will take years to come to fruition. For the foreseeable future, it seems the mainstay of Taiwan's defence will remain its aging arsenal.
Raffaello Pantucci on China's Central Asian silk road:
The longer term problem for China is the responsibility that will eventually fall to it. While Beijing may see itself as a provider of goods and opener of markets, it is in reality reconnecting the continent in order to place itself at the heart of a new latticework of infrastructure and trade routes emanating from Urumqi. Not only is China going to be bound to these markets, it will also increasingly find itself in an awkward place when trying to sidestep involvement in local issues.
Robert E. Kelly thinks that the South Korea-Japan comfort women agreement is on shaky ground:
In such dire circumstances, it is easy to see the left reaching for the highly resonant comfort women issue in a bid to prevent catastrophe. Hotly disputing the comfort women deal — painting it as a deal of the pro-Japanese right, and not the Korean people — would be an obvious, evocative wedge issue. As long Korean opposition to the deal can be relegated to the leftist newspapers and nationalist NGOs, Park might be able to swing public opinion. But if this takes over the National Assembly campaign in the spring, I think the deal will collapse.
Finally, Casper Wuite on a possible Western-led intervention in Libya:
First, while Western countries focus on how, why and under what conditions they should participate in military interventions, far too little attention is paid to how such an intervention would end. It is true that a light military footprint can prevent some of the pitfalls of large-scale interventions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but nevertheless, such interventions achieve little in the absence of a political settlement, risking the type of mission creep Western countries are trying to avoid.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Azi Paybarah.