Building with writing "Thilawa Special Economic Zone" that has closed gates and barriers in the driveway
Hitting a roadblock: development projects like the Japan-sponsored Thilawa Special Economic Zone have struggled following the 2021 coup in Myanmar. Source: Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Myanmar.

Do regime differences shape developmental engagement? How China and Japan compete in post-coup Myanmar

The 2021 military coup in Myanmar has left the country significantly isolated on the world stage. Politically, foreign governments have avoided recognizing the junta rulers, although quasi-official engagement is still underway. Economically, foreign investments into Myanmar have dropped by 42% from 2021 to 2022, off levels that had already massively decreased since the 2017 Rohingya expulsion. However, despite the international outcry over the new regime’s open warfare against civilians and the escalating violence in Myanmar’s multi-front civil war, both China and Japan have remained engaged in development cooperation, pursuing ambitious projects for economic corridors and special economic zones (SEZs) that were contracted under the deposed civilian government; in the case of China, even some new projects have been launched. 


Mark Rutte, Ursula von der Leyen, Kaïs Saïed , and Giorgia Meloni shaking hands
Mark Rutte, Ursula von der Leyen, Kais Saied, and Giorgia Meloni. | Photo: Dati Bendo, © European Union, 2023

EU Democracy Support in the Southern Neighborhood: How the EU Contradicts its own Practices

For decades, the EU has declared that it aims to support democratization in its southern neighborhood. Yet, the EU’s cooperation with repressive rulers in other policy fields, such as energy, migration, security, and trade, contradicts the EU’s own democracy support objectives. European policymakers have apparently not learnt from the pre-2011 period. As we argue in our project SHAPEDEM-EU, the EU must embark on a journey of un-, de- and re-learning, and it must avoid contradicting practices in different policy fields. This can be done by introducing a democracy learning loop.


Debate in the EU parliament
The EU is currently discussing foreign interference as a serious challenge. | Photo: © European Union 2021 – Source: EP | CC-BY-4.0

Debating Foreign Interference in a Multipolar World: Is the EU Becoming Illiberal?

The ways in which foreign interference by China, Russia and others are currently discussed in Brussels indicate that the EU is considering moving away from liberal principles in the area of international civil society support and the foreign funding of NGOs in particular. Based on a co-authored comment in the Heidelberg Journal of International Law, this blog post argues that it is helpful to read the current EU debate on foreign interference in the light of the ongoing, conflict-ridden transformation of the global order.


Map of Europe showing NATO member states, Russia and Ukraine.
Scholars like Mearsheimer have argued that the West is mostly to blame for the Russo-Ukrainian war. | Map source: (personal editing)

“Russian Self-Defense”? Fact-Checking Arguments on the Russo-Ukrainian War by John J. Mearsheimer and Others

In the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, and in the wider Russo-Western conflict, both sides compete over international influence as well as over how Ukraine and Russia are governed. While most would agree with this general assessment, prominent scholars like John J. Mearsheimer and others have argued that the West caused these confrontations by aggressively expanding its influence and preferred regime type into Ukraine, thus forcing Russia’s hand. However, while Russia’s perceptions of NATO evidently played a role in its decisions, a recent study finds that Mearsheimer’s arguments are at best incomplete and at worst simply false.