Weekend Roundup: As the West Bickers, the East Builds a New Silk Road


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

While the passions of internal discord have stalled the once-confident global march of the West, the East, led by China, is looking ahead with a decades-long strategy to revive the ancient Silk Road through Eurasia as the core of the world’s economy and civilization. As Oxford historian Peter Frankopan, author of “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World,” writes: “The age of the West is all but at an end when it comes to taking the lead and planning for the future.”

In a short video, George Yeo, the former foreign minister of Singapore, sees China’s new Silk Road, which will affect 63 percent of the global population, as a return to the times of the Han Dynasty before Western imperialism when commercial relations flourished among the very disparate religious and ethnic groups along the Eurasian trading route. Whatever China’s other challenges, its leadership knows where it is headed and is convinced it will get there.

For now, the West has sunk to a new low of poisonous politics and shortsightedness. When key problems remain unaddressed by the governing class for so long that there are no easy solutions, populist demagogues surface to offer false hope. By simplistically targeting scapegoats and dividing the body politic against itself, they sow paralysis, disabling the very consensus necessary to effect real change driven by long-term unity of purpose. This is how republics are ruined, as Philip Freeman attests to in his comparison of Donald Trump and Publius Clodius Pulcher, the audacious politician whose populist pandering laid the groundwork for autocratic rule in ancient Rome. It is under the conditions of instability and upheaval, Thomas Weber reflects, that the “strongman” who can “fix it all” by sidestepping liberal constraints is the most appealing. Writing from Germany, comedian Oliver Kalkofe fears the “death” of satire in his country as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaches across borders to prosecute Jan Böhmermann, another German comedian, for insulting a foreign leader.

This week, Boko Haram was back in the news when it released a video of some of the girls kidnapped two years ago from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown writes that the world should be ashamed for having failed to #BringBackOurGirls. In our “Forgotten Fact” this week, World Reporter Charlotte Alfred reports on the fate of the other girls who have been kidnapped since Boko Haram took over 200 girls in April 2014 and suggests the 10 best reads for understanding the militant group’s war on women.

Writing from Rome for our “Following Francis” series, Sébastien Maillard covers the release of a new papal document, “The Joy of Love,” that loosens what has been a rigid Vatican doctrine on divorce and remarriage.

Writing from São Paulo in advance of a major United Nations session on drug policy next week, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso scores “the central bias of prohibition” which focuses on drugs instead of people and the public health environment. Also writing from Brazil, former education minister Cristovam Buarque worries that the current anti-corruption campaign will end up damaging efforts to remove the “golden curtain” of social inequality in that vast nation. Juan Carlos Gutiérrez and Jared Genser write from Caracas, Venezuela that, in blocking a new amnesty law for political prisoners passed by the National Assembly, President Nicolás Maduro is “undermining Venezuelan democracy and dismissing any hopes for a reunification of its fragmented society.”

In the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, Daniel Marans reports this week on a new Oxfam America study that shows America’s 50 largest corporations — including Apple, Disney and Coca-Cola — are sheltering over $1 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid taxes. Meanwhile, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden explore why Africa’s becoming an increasingly desirable investment destination for China.

In a series of short “IDEA BITs” videos from a recent Berggruen Center for Philosophy and Culture conference on the interface of humans and technology, five of Silicon Valley’s top minds — including Reid Hoffman and Bill Joy — talk about the promises and perils of artificial intelligence and gene editing. Our Singularity series this week focuses on how 3-D-printed ovaries might be the next major treatment for infertility. Finally, we also report on how swarms of tube-shaped “microbots” could one day be able to scrub wastewater clean of lead and other industrial pollutants.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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