Beware fair-weather friends
Thank you for highlighting, in your excellent November Editorial, the ‘evolving canvas’ being drawn in the Middle East and its potential to have positive repercussions throughout Asia. Also of note was the cautionary tone in the piece vis-à-vis the United States’ planned desertion of the Syrian Kurds in their hour of need, showing how much it has become ‘an unpredictable fair-weather friend’ to its supposed allies.
Then the world witnessed President Trump’s mind-boggling statement that he will, after all, keep American forces in Syria to ‘secure’ its oil fields and the US may even ‘have to fight for the oil’– not only a wild U-turn in policy but also a possible violation of international treaties of war, even as Trump sees seizure of oil as part of the spoils of war.
America is not going anywhere any time soon as a major global power. But that should not stop us from seriously questioning the warped values of the incumbent in the White House – especially those of us in nations that, post-Brexit, may have to increase our reliance on this fair-weather friend.
Grace T. Fletcher
Don’t let Hong Kong hit the self-destruct button
The continued protests in Hong Kong represent a major challenge to the authority of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as Duncan Bartlett noted in the November edition of Asian Affairs. But we have also seen signs of pointless and puerile acts by protestors, including hurling Molotov cocktails at metro carriages. There may be agitators among them, but that is insufficient an excuse. It behoves those who are more politically astute to rein in the destructive tendencies of those who have shown themselves to be ineffectual at building a movement, let alone being able to win the argument for democracy where it matters most – in Hong Kong itself, as well as its surrounding hinterland.
The real losers are likely to be the two million or so locals who initially supported the protestors’ actions and demands. And the ability to have mobilised so many was a significant feat for a movement with its origins in a not inconsiderable element of petty-separatist and anti-nationalist tendencies.
But the increasingly directionless acts of rage point to a movement unable to build on, let alone sustain, its initial gains and momentum.
Of course, freedom and democracy have never been gently handed down to people by those in positions of power and authority. Those secretly hoping that Beijing would wade in heavy-handed have been sorely disappointed thus far. This restraint may be testament to the importance Hong Kong still has to a regime unable to establish its own currency in world money markets. Or it may be that, now especially – sensing the end-game for this particular round of protests – the Communist Party knows it can simply sit and wait, as even those who supported them in their initial phase grow weary of their growing imbecility.
Professor in the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
University of Bath
A move in the wrong direction
Rahimullah Yusufzai is right to say that Pakistan’s opposition parties will not let the PTI-led government rule in peace. True, it is performing poorly. True, too, that Imran Khan came to power under a cloud of mistrust over the allegedly rigged election and his military backing. But calls for a more ‘democratic’ Pakistan are, disturbingly, led not by centrist parties such as the PML-N and PPP, but by the head of an Islamic party. The ‘Azadi March’ organisers apparently even banned women from taking part. This is not the direction in which Pakistan should be heading.