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.
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.
After a lengthy process of internal deliberation, the German government released its China strategy on July 13. The document signals a policy shift away from the business-focused approach taken by previous governments, and towards a “de-risking” of ties with China. It also reframes the relationship by stressing elements of competition and even rivalry, based on the perception that Chinese authoritarianism is becoming a threat to Germany and its role in the world. Instead of seeking to transform autocracies through engagement, the new approach is much more about shoring up Germany’s own system.
Mit dem Beginn des russischen Angriffskriegs auf die Ukraine wurde das Narrativ eines globalen Wettstreits zwischen Demokratien und Autokratien wiederbelebt, das bereits im Zuge des Aufstiegs Chinas an Bedeutung gewonnen hatte. Im März 2022 hatte auch Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock noch von einem „Bündnis von liberalen Demokratien weltweit“ gesprochen, das es gegen die Diktaturen dieser Welt zu schließen gelte. Etwas mehr als ein Jahr später hat die Bundesregierung nun ihre Nationale Sicherheitsstrategie veröffentlicht, in der vom Zwei-Lager-Denken nichts mehr zu finden ist. Diese positive Entwicklung wird jedoch konterkariert von einem weitgehenden Schweigen zu Fragen von Stabilität und Sicherheit, die sich im Umgang mit unterschiedlichen Regimetypen stellen – was auch keine Lösung ist, wie wir im Folgenden argumentieren.
The intensifying systemic rivalry between great powers also involves contesting the most effective approaches to conflict resolution and mediation. The most recent Beijing-mediated détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran has ignited heated debates regarding its longevity and China’s rising profile in the region. While the Middle East may still be a region largely inhospitable to outsider mediation, there are three good reasons why Beijing’s latest foray into Middle East peace diplomacy may be effective. The article argues that China’s hitherto successful mediation between Saudi and Iran lies in its power of not using power—the ability to leverage its growing geoeconomic influence while refraining from the use of coercive power in regional affairs. This approach aims at providing an alternative approach to external powers’ engagement in Middle East peace affairs.
Antarctic diplomacy has famously shielded the continent of peace, science, and environmental protection from outside conflict and war. This “exceptionalism” is now being tested by Russia’s war against Ukraine and the belief that international strategic competition between great powers is spilling over into the Antarctic. In order to keep the Antarctic exceptional, however, it would be wise to refocus on what has made Antarctic diplomacy so successful in the first place: cooperation in order to compete, or “co-opetition.”
An emerging “new Cold War” appears to pit democracies, led by the US, against autocracies, led by Russia and China. But the analogy between today’s regime competition and that of the “old” Cold War is deceptive. China and Russia today are much more closely intertwined with Western democracies than the Soviet Union ever was. These linkages will complicate the conflict considerably. There is already growing pressure to engage in “decoupling”, that is, to break these interdependencies. Research on past instances of decoupling shows that such processes often exacerbate conflict. This research offers four lessons about the general dynamics of decoupling – and little cause for optimism about today’s disengagement processes.
The March 2023 state visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping to Russia has attracted significant attention, and has been described as symbolic of growing cooperation between authoritarian states opposed to the current world order. However, as we argue in a recently-published article based on a review of Russian and Chinese expert statements, this partnership should best be understood as a limited, strategically motivated cooperation against shared threat perceptions. Meanwhile, there is much less agreement on normative questions, let alone a shared vision of an alternative world order.
More than thirty years after the proclaimed “end of history” and the third wave of democratization, the world is once again marked by increased diversity in political regimes. The (re-)emergence of powerful authoritarian states like China and Russia and the trend of backsliding in seemingly consolidated democracies have created a more pluralistic and multipolar world, in which states with different political regime types increasingly view each other as competitors, seeking to prove the superiority of their own political and economic systems and to win the allegiance of third countries.