Deng’s grandchildren

Shanghai skyline (Photo: Keith Marshall [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0])

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

Impatient with Beijing, Shanghai sets the pace for reform. It has lessons for India

In India, it is called “policy paralysis”. In Washington DC, they crib about a “political gridlock”. In Europe, they lament a lack of “political will”. In China, the concern now is with growing “political risk-aversion”.

Last week, a young official in Shanghai told me that Beijing had become too cautious on the economic policy front, so provinces seeking speedier economic growth must take their own initiative. “We will not have much reform from above,” he said to me, “but we can have reform from below.”


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Understanding the Saudi succession

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud performs a funeral prayer for Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Photo: Saudi Press Agency)

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud performs a funeral prayer for Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Photo: Saudi Press Agency)

It’s not yet clear what the appointment of Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud as crown prince of Saudi Arabia following the death of his brother, Naif, will mean  for the country or the wider gulf region. Prince Salman has a reputation as something of a reformer but is also known to be hawkish on Iran.

The appointment has also shone a spotlight on the kingdom’s labyrinthine rules of succession. In December 2010, following the unusual public announcement  that King Abdullah would be seeking medical treatment in the US, an IISS Strategic Comment explained the 2006 Succession Law, and looked at the issues facing the Saudi monarchy.

Read Saudi-Arabia: testing times ahead

Bahrain: between reform and stagnation

Elham Fakhro, IISS Research Associate for International Law and Strategy; and Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Research Fellow at LSE Global Governance

Nearly two months have elapsed since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) published a report into the unrest that shook this Persian Gulf archipelago last year. Its 513 pages laid bare the excessive use of force, systematic mistreatment, and culture of non-accountability, as the Bahraini government responded to a popular movement that challenged its grip on power. It also found no evidence of any Iranian involvement in the protests, thereby contradicting regime narratives that ascribed them to external intervention rather than domestic grievances. In response, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, pledged to initiate reforms, and established a national commission to oversee their implementation. Yet the measures taken to date have left unaddressed many of the roots of Bahrain’s political and economic inequalities, and ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces have if anything, intensified.  The result has been the empowerment of radical voices across the political spectrum and the marginalisation of Bahrain’s political middle ground.

Read the full article at openDemocracy

Myanmar: Coming in from the cold?

People in Aung San Suu Kyi masks (by lewishamdreamer from Flickr used under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) By Oliver Elliott, Editorial Assistant
Could it be the beginning of the end for the sanctions regime on Myanmar? Yesterday Australia became the first country to loosen sanctions with the easing of travel and financial restrictions on some of the country’s leadership. Although only a tentative first step, the move comes as part of a broader push by the West to recognise and reward the reforms being enacted by Myanmar’s government.In December, Hillary Clinton made the first visit to the country by a US Secretary of State in five decades, offering to loosen some restrictions on international financial assistance and development programmes if the current rate of reform is maintained. She also suggested that the US might be willing to consider easing sanctions, which currently include an arms embargo, travel restrictions on political leaders and ban on any American individual or organisation doing new business with the country. Just a month later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague made his own equally historic trip to offer rewards in return for further reform. A few Western businesses are already anticipating a return to Myanmar in the near future.

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