Post-Western World’s ten most read articles of 2017


1. Brazil’s top 10 foreign policy challenges in 2017
Brazil's foreign policy under its three former Presidents — Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016)— was, despite some setbacks, shaped, above all, by the challenges of managing Brazil's rise and transformation into a modern, globally visible actor. The interim government led by Michel Temer, by contrast, seeks to arrest Brazil's decline as Latin America's largest economy enters what may become the fourth straight year of near zero or negative growth. This requires updating some of the key tenets of Brazilian foreign policy, while maintaining others. Above all, considering the extremely limited time Temer remains in office and the fact that 2018 will mostly be dedicated to campaigning, foreign policy makers will have to pick their battles wisely.

2. Why Venezuela will not look like Cuba (or North Korea)
Venezuela will paradoxically be the exact opposite of Cuba, particularly when it comes to public security, education and health. In all three, Cuba has a solid track record, even though its public health system has crumbled recently, and the lack of free speech obviously hampers the quality of its schools and universities. Yet even fierce critics of the Castro regime have to admit that Havana is far safer than most other Latin American cities (except for regime critics, that is), and that life expectancy in Cuba is high considering its modest per-capita GDP. It is no coincidence that Cuba has sent its doctors to work in many countries around the world to boost its soft power.

3. International Politics in 2017: Ten Predictions
The toxic combination of rising inequality, growing polarization, the proliferation of "fake news" and populist candidates will pose a severe challenge to democracies around the world, particularly those in Europe and North America. News organizations will continue to struggle to adapt, already facing a shortage of funds for investigative journalism (particularly on the local level). Social media contributes to a move towards highly compartmentalized, fragmented societies (or "silo societies"), and the number of platforms to promote national debates that reach all domestic groups is shrinking.

4. Can China Union Pay challenge Visa and Mastercard?
Challenging Visa and Mastercard does not, at first glance, look like a geopolitical enterprise. And yet, the topic is intimately related to international security. China’s willingness to strengthen China UnionPay must also be seen as an attempt to gain greater autonomy from the West in the case of future confrontation. This became particularly obvious after the adoptions of Western sanctions against Russia in response to the annexation of Ukraine. If Moscow can be targeted, policymakers in Beijing reasoned, China could be next.

5. Why does Brazil’s Workers’ Party still support the Maduro regime in Venezuela?
Even left-wing grandees across the region admit the vote on July 30 for the constituent assembly would erase the last vestiges of democracy in Venezuela. Julio Delgado of Brazil's Socialist Party (PSB), which traditionally supported Chávez, recently put it bluntly: "Maduro's regime is crazy. The constituent assembly that he called is an attempt to create a totalitarian state." This did not stop Gleisi Hoffmann, the newly-minted president of Brazil's Workers's Party from emphatically defending Nicolás Maduro at a recent meeting of the Forum of São Paulo in Managua.

6. The BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration: An analysis
The 9th BRICS Summit -- the second in China after 2011 -- was held in Xiamen to much fanfare in the Chinese media. Despite solid growth in India and Putin's continued capacity to keep the West on edge, it becomes increasingly evident that, due to the growing power asymmetry within the grouping, BRICS must be understood as one element in a much broader Chinese effort to reshape global affairs. This does not mean that Chinese diplomacy does not prioritize the grouping – quite to the contrary: the Foreign Ministry in Beijing provides preferential treatment to fellow BRICS members and carefully picks its diplomats posted in capitals in BRICS countries. As expected, the 9th summit got the full attention of both Xi Jinping and the country’s propaganda machine. While both India and Russia continue to articulate new ideas of what to do with the BRICS grouping, Beijing’s preferences are becoming ever more important.

7. Brazil’s no-show at the G20
Skipping the presidential G20 summit is not a trivial omission, and it sends a strong message to leaders that Brazil is unable to actively participate in the big debates about global challenges at this point. The BRICS leaders of Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet in Hamburg to prepare for their upcoming meeting in September. No President has ever missed a BRICS Summit. In 2010, China's President Hu Jintao decided to participate in the 2nd BRICS Summit in Brasília despite a massive earthquake in the country, underlining his commitment to the emerging grouping at the time. President Temer should keep this episode in mind as the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen approaches.

8. Who will be Brazil’s Foreign Minister next month?
Cabinet post horse-trading is in full swing in Brasília, and President Temer is said to plan on substituting around 17 of his 28 ministers in a major reshuffle -- a last-ditch effort to please parties whose support the embattled president desperately needs to push through even a modest version of pension reform. The issue does not only determine Brazil's economic outlook, it will also define the legacy of Temer's tumultuous interim presidency. The party set to lose most or all of its cabinet posts are the Social Democrats (PSDB), crippled by infighting and a hamletian uncertainty about whether to continue its support of the deeply unpopular government.

9. BRICS’ New Development Bank announces 5-year strategy
The NDB's recently launched 5-year plan, which provides a few more details about the bank's activities, yet it does not contain enough hard facts that would sustain a broader public debate about the bank -- it remains to be seen how the NDB's broadly articulated goals will play out in practice. The key question remains: where will the bank innovate, and where will it operate like existing institutions? Still, even a somewhat vague document is welcome news -- after all, civil society representatives in particular had long complained about how little information had been made available about the new institution's standards and practices. Yet while there is a public debate about the NDB in India and South Africa (though largely of the non-critical, pro-government sort), no such debate exists in Brazil, where it is not the Foreign Ministry, but the Ministry of Finance in charge of the country's participation.

10. Was Dilma Rousseff an international affairs wonk at heart?
One issue that future historians writing about Rousseff's foreign policy will inevitably discuss is the president's alleged lack of interest in international affairs. It was this disinterest in the topic, according to the so far dominant assumption, which goes a long way to explain Brazil's remarkable foreign policy retreat at the time.

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