The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We’ve done that for so long that we've forgotten there’s any other way.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

We weren’t able to publish last week because of Labour Day but we hope this week’s WRU will make up for it.

Important points to note this week:

  1. Stratfor’s serie on Japanese ‘revival’: the world’s third largest economy continues to react to internal and external pressures, slowly but surely ending the post WWII’s status quo.
  2. China and US competition continues to increase, and the most recent essay actually describes both countries as driving toward irreconcilable (thus potentially conflictual) positions.
  3. In the great rebalancing of the world’s economy and political power, the Middle East remains a ‘sideshow‘, although a bloody one full of human misery, and still a challenge to neighbouring regions.
  4. Europe’s internal issues prevent it from more active involvement abroad as fragmentation continues. In addition, regional challenges (Russian renewed assertiveness, Middle East’s chaos, and African emigration) forbids farther engagement.

These trends are of course worrying and in stark contrast with recent Western’s own perception of the future following the USSR’s collapse and booming globalization. However, as we mentioned repeatedly, the last 60 years have been an historical anomaly. Indeed, worldwide relative stability for such an extended period is historically rare, and our world is slowly but surely drifting toward more chaotic international relationships.

The problem is compounded by economic theories with powerful political implications taking hold around the world, namely the supremacy of impersonal markets and the insignificance of individuals. This has increased corporatism to unprecedented positions of power, weakening democracies and preventing more conciliatory approaches to prevail. With such background, the main question is whether our societies reverse the dangerous (not to say catastrophic) trends in which they currently are?

History & Geopolitics

Sovereignty in the Ancient Near EastMust read [Audio with transcripts] – “Until World War I most futurists, from Karl Marx to regular businessmen, expected banks to take the lead in planning society. But after Germany lost World War I, the world reverted to Anglo-American banking. This was basically short-term hit and run.

Assad’s hold on power looks shakier than ever as rebels advance in Syria – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “…a regime collapse cannot be ruled out. The regime’s schisms, its battlefield setbacks and its manpower shortages “are all signs of weakness. We may be seeing signs of the beginning of their end.””

Immigration Drives a Deeper Wedge Between EU States – “In the meantime, asylum seekers will continue to enter the European Union, inflaming tensions between member states, strengthening nationalist parties and eroding popular support for the founding principles of the European Union.

A frosty peace beckons for the US and China – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “But balancing Beijing’s weight is one thing. Nervous as they are, China’s neighbours have a powerful economic interest in getting on with Beijing. A US that sought permanent preponderance would be inviting a collision. Unstoppable forces and immovable objects come to mind.

Wang Jianlin, a Billionaire at the Intersection of Business and Power in China – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – ““Stay close to the government and distant from politics.” “It’s a fact that China’s economy is government-led, and the real estate industry depends on approvals, so if you say you can ignore the government in this business, I’d say that’s impossible.””

Prelude to a Japanese Revival – “The confluence of China’s rise with the maturation of American grand strategy is the core compulsion driving Japan’s effort to revive its economy and expand its role in regional political and security affairs. These external pressures are inextricable from the internal pressures of demographic decline and loss of economic dynamism.

Conversation: Japan’s Economic Revival – [Video] – “Stratfor East Asia Analyst John Minnich and Managing Editor Ben Sheen discuss Japan’s recent economic and domestic revival, its relations with the U.S., and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Finance & Economics

Wake up economists. The TPP is not “free trade” – “Again, far from advancing the cause of ‘free trade’, the TPP would significantly strengthen the pricing power of the powerful US pharmaceutical and digital industries, lessen competition, and worsen outcomes for consumers and taxpayers alike.

Picture of the day: Earthquake devastates Nepal

NepalQuake

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi