Opinion

Ian Bremmer

The underappreciated tensions between China and Brazil

Ian Bremmer
May 28, 2013 17:46 UTC

If you believed the conventional wisdom, this week’s meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was bound to be fraught. The leaders of the world’s two largest countries, only a month removed from a standoff in the Himalayas, were meeting. Acrimony was sure to follow, right?

No. Instead, Li said he offered India a “handshake across the Himalayas” and mused about how China and India could increase their trade to $100 billion by 2015. China and India, you see, aren’t as antagonistic as pundits make them out to be.

Aside from each having more than 1 billion people, China and India actually have very little in common. The two are divergent — yet their economies are largely complementary. India is struggling to regain its torrid growth of the mid-2000s; China is closer to maintaining it. India, thanks to corruption and regulation, doesn’t build much infrastructure; China can’t stop. Indians have started to bring their entrepreneurship to China, since their domestic market is so flawed and because China itself has so few entrepreneurs. China, meanwhile, has started to send some basic low-scale manufacturing to India, as the cost and quality of Chinese labor rises.

Global policy wonks have long worried that in 20 years, India and China would both be so big that a conflict would become inevitable. Whether the conflict stemmed from security concerns or resource restraints — for example, China and India constitute 37 percent of the world’s population but have just 10.8 percent of the world’s fresh water — the two countries were on track to greater antagonism. It turns out these concerns are overblown.

There is, however, a brewing tension between China and Brazil that people don’t fully appreciate.  China and Brazil are two countries with steady growth, activist state sectors and hugely popular governments. They’ll be in the same corner of the world stage for decades. Both argue for a more multi-polar and equitable world order ‑ read: one that is less U.S.-driven ‑ which makes them good fits for the BRICs. But when you compare the Brazilian and Chinese visions of what this new order should look like, it’s clear there is a very small common denominator on most issues, from currency to climate change to human rights.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 24, 2013 15:23 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order, and shared from ForeignPolicy.com. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

 

China’s Entrenched Gender Gap

Leta Hong Fincher, New York Times

The employment rate for urban working-age women in China fell to 60.8 percent in 2010– down from 77.4 percent 20 years earlier—a full 20 percent below the 2010 rate for men. As China continues to urbanize, what does this trend mean? Will educated Chinese women increasingly look abroad for work?

 

Senate Moves Toward Arming the Syrian Rebels

Josh Rogin, The Daily Beast

“The U.S. cannot solve every conflict on the planet,” said Senator Marco Rubio at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting to vote on legislation that would arm elements of the Syrian opposition. But even with no Syrian solution in sight, that didn’t stop him from voting in favor of the bill. Will it pressure President Obama to increase American involvement?

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 20, 2013 15:28 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order, and shared from ForeignPolicy.com. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

Leaving Bangladesh? Not an easy choice for brands” – Jonathan Faney and Anne D’Innocenzio, Associated Press

The recent tragedy in Bangladesh is a reason for multinationals to take their business elsewhere. The average hourly wage of 24 cents in Bangladesh (compared to $0.45 in Cambodia, $0.52 in Pakistan, $0.53 in Vietnam, or $1.26 in China) may prove sufficient reason to stay.

Washington’s scandals won’t stunt America’s recovery

Ian Bremmer
May 16, 2013 15:55 UTC

Scandal has visited the Obama administration, and thanks to the media narrative it’s larger than the sum of its parts. With a talking-point imbroglio after Benghazi, the IRS’s discriminatory practices and the Justice Department’s procurement of Associated Press phone records, the Obama administration and its allies are right to be worried.

But those of us invested in U.S. growth have little reason to fret. The past few years have proved that dysfunction in Washington has almost no effect on America’s attractiveness to investors. As the rates of U.S. Treasury bonds prove, America continues to be the place for investors to park their money. That’s because petty politics don’t control the fate of the country.

In major emerging markets, politicians have to behave to appeal to investors. In capitals like Moscow, Delhi and Pretoria, this is largely an act of optics, but it’s an important one for countries trying to earn the trust of investors who see opportunity, but not necessarily stability. For further proof of developing countries’ precarious position, look to Bangladesh, where a country’s economy has been threatened by its politicians’ negligence before, during and after the country’s latest garment industry catastrophe.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 10, 2013 18:58 UTC

Eurasia Group is posting our favorite political risk articles of the week on Foreign Policy, which I’d like to share here as well.  As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections @EurasiaGroup or @IanBremmer.

Must-reads 

U.S. Blames China’s Military Directly for Cyberattacks” – David E. Sanger, New York Times

For the first time, the Obama administration explicitly accused China’s military of responsibility for cyberattacks on American government computer systems. By some estimates, 90 percent of the cyberespionage in the US originates in China. 

On Syria, it’s time for Obama to decide

Ian Bremmer
May 9, 2013 18:46 UTC

Through two years of Syrian crisis, the Obama administration has cautiously dragged its feet as the United States is further enmeshed in the conflict. That’s a sensible platform at home, with opinion polls showing that Americans don’t think the country has a responsibility to intervene. It has strategic merit, too, given that intervention against Bashar al-Assad is an implicit endorsement of a largely unknown opposition force with radical, sectarian factions. 

But the status quo in Syria is breaking down, and Obama’s worst option is to kick the can as the United States inexorably gets dragged deeper into the conflict. It may be politically painful, but it’s time to make a choice: Go all in with a no fly zone — or avoid anything more than diplomatic intervention and humanitarian/non-lethal aid. Here’s why.

Until recently, Obama’s strategy of hesitance and risk aversion was commendable and well executed. As the situation worsened, the United States took minimal, reactionary steps. First, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to put together a formal — and reasonably liberal — Syrian political opposition, but it quickly fragmented because it had no workable ties to the actual rebels doing the actual fighting. Then the United States turned to non-lethal aid for the rebels (including defensive military equipment) as well as supporting Qatar and other countries through intelligence and logistics. Furthermore, in August 2012, Obama drew a “red line” at “chemical weapons moving around or being utilized” by the regime. At the time, it seemed unlikely to come to fruition anytime soon.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 3, 2013 19:18 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

Lebanon squanders its finest human assets” – David Gardner, Financial Times

Lebanon is losing talent…and electricity. Last year, the country got an average of 11.4 hours of electricity a day.

The global vacuum of power is expanding

Ian Bremmer
May 3, 2013 12:04 UTC

How do you solve a problem like Korea? Or Syria? Or the euro zone? Or climate change?

Don’t look to Washington. The United States will remain the world’s most powerful nation for years to come, but the Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers are now focused on debt, immigration, guns and growth. A war-weary, under-employed American public wants results at home, leaving U.S. officials to look for allies willing to share costs and risks abroad.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to build and sustain alliances in a world where America can’t afford its traditional share of the heavy lifting. No wonder then that the Obama administration’s greatest foreign policy successes haven’t depended on such alliances. Withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t require consensus among the world’s powers. President Barack Obama’s single indisputable foreign policy triumph, the killing of Osama bin Laden, needed buy-in only from the members of Seal Team 6.

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