Connect with us

Emerging Markets

The awesome stakes of Joe Biden’s presidency

Published

on


The current militarisation of downtown Washington is a propaganda gift to autocrats everywhere. This, they will say of the khaki vans and camouflaged guards, is where liberalism ends: civil strife; a besieged state. The grimmest thing about the show of strength is that it is probably warranted.

It is not as if the world’s authoritarians need the reputational boost. New data confirm that China’s economy did more than merely avoid recession last year. Its Covid-19 vaccines have takers from Indonesia to Hungary via the Gulf, neatly inverting the Sino-Soviet split of the 1970s, Beijing has struck an investment deal with the EU. Those sounds you hear are the first notes of transatlantic discord over the emergent superpower.

Such is the world that confronts Joe Biden as he takes office on Wednesday. Not since 1945, when Harry Truman felt the weight of the “moon, the stars and all the planets”, has more rested on a new US president.

If he governs well, mending the economy, dispensing vaccines, and calming the home front, he can stem the trickling away of US (and by extension western) credibility since the millennium. What started with the US’s “forever wars” and worsened with the 2008 financial crash reached a negative apotheosis with the still-raging pandemic. The west needs a success story for its own morale as much as its outward reputation.

If, on the other hand, Mr Biden fails, the sense of Chinese momentum will start to feel less like form and more like destiny. Countries with systems somewhere between multi-party democracy and absolutism might come to see the second as this century’s strong horse. Within the US, the soil will be fertilised for a populist comeback — an abler Donald Trump — in the 2024 election, with all that implies for domestic peace and intra-western comity. There is a circularity to decline.

Readers are entitled to yawn when every presidency is vaunted as a hinge moment for the world. Looking back, perhaps it did not matter all that much whether George HW Bush or Bill Clinton won the 1992 election. Bar the handling of Russian sensitivities post-cold war, that decade did not require miraculous feats of statecraft. The US had moral credit to spare, and such supremacy that it was neither easy nor worthwhile to identify the second mightiest country.

But if the hype has been too breathless in the past, the easier mistake now is to understate things. Whether we look back on the early 21st century as the moment of eclipse for the west, or just a bad run, depends in large part on Mr Biden’s performance.

A man whose selling point was his nondescriptness, and an implied promise of respite between the stress of Trump and a bolder Democrat to come, will have to do more. His expansive schemes for fiscal relief and pandemic control suggest that he understands this. But they are schemes. He, and liberal democracy itself, will be judged on a factor that has been elusive over the past two decades: competence.

To make his inheritance yet worse, Mr Biden takes charge of the US at the most awkward phase in the superpower lifecycle. Its relative strength has waned but not so much as to elevate, even remotely, another leader of the free world. The US remains the anchor of the international system. Its domestic life is still, to a frankly weird extent, the planet’s binge watch (hence protests in Paris about a police killing in Minneapolis). Its failures become those of liberalism entire, at least in the agitprop of the autocratic world. In the past, America’s compensation for these burdens was a commensurate amount of power. Now, the two are gallingly misaligned.

In that sense, perhaps not even 1945 does justice to the gauntlet awaiting Mr Biden. As cowed as Truman felt, the US was a coming force, and an internally coherent one. He was working with the grain of history. A human lifetime later, the US has a smaller share of world output and counts a peaceful transition of presidential rule as a comment-worthy achievement. A large majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted not to certify the election of Mr Biden, even after the Capitol siege.

As a rule of thumb, a democracy is in good health to the extent that its politics do not matter. Ideally, the spread of outcomes from a new president should be a slightly better healthcare system or a slightly worse one. Mr Biden’s spread is nothing less than the shoring up of liberalism’s good name, or the extension of its malaise, until it hardens into fate. There is an air of the last chance about this presidency.

janan.ganesh@ft.com

Follow Janan Ganesh with myFT and on Twitter





Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Emerging Markets

A harrowing brush with Covid as India is ravaged

Published

on

By


As a foreign correspondent, my job is to tell India’s stories, not be part of them. But when I started feeling feverish while writing an article about Covid-19 vaccine policy last month, I had a gut feeling that the Sars-Cov-2 virus had found me.

I hoped it was exhaustion that I’d sleep off but the next day, still feverish, I was urged to take a Covid test. A leading diagnostic lab chain, which earlier had run an efficient home-testing service, had stopped answering its phones and responding to online requests. But a doctor friend persuaded one of the lab’s phlebotomists to collect my sample. Two days later, the results confirmed I was part of the ferocious coronavirus wave battering India and pushing its healthcare system to breaking point.

Over the following days, my physical symptoms remained mild. But it was still harrowing to be sick from a notoriously unpredictable virus knowing that drugs, hospital beds and oxygen were scarce. I suffered constant anxiety knowing I’d struggle to get medical help if I took a turn for the worse.

I quickly discovered that I’d been so focused on avoiding infection that I had no clue what to do once sick. A friend connected me to a Kolkata-based infectious disease specialist, who felt I was at low risk for severe illness. I’d had the first dose of a Covid vaccine 10 days before my fever started. But the doctor urged me to treat the illness aggressively from the start, given the chaos at hospitals.

He prescribed the antiviral drug, favipiravir, now undergoing clinical trials in the UK as a potential Covid-19 therapy but already approved in India for emergency use. Many of his patients had taken it, he said, and none suffered severely, including people in their 90s.

Normally, I’m reluctant to medicate. I knew favipiravir’s effectiveness as a coronavirus treatment wasn’t yet scientifically validated. But with hospitals turning away ailing patients, the logic of taking an experimental drug made sense. The challenge, I discovered, was to get hold of it.

I called five pharmacies, but all had run out of stock. A friend called six more to no avail. I panicked — the doctor wanted me to start the drug fast and Delhi was hours from the start of a weekend curfew. Then a friend, who’d heard I was Covid-19 positive, called.

“I’m looking for this drug,” I told her. “Any idea where I can get it?” She said she’d check. It turned out that people with foresight had prepared small emergency drug stashes. Her friend had such a stash and was willing to share it.

I was elated to get the pills to start treatment that night. But it wasn’t enough for the prescribed course. Days later I spent hours calling pharmacies in an unsuccessful hunt for more, before finally begging an industry friend to help.

My difficulties pale in comparison with the desperation, anger and grief beyond my sickroom. My Twitter feed was filled with pleas for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, the antiviral remdesivir, plasma or a place in an intensive care unit. Top hospitals begged on Twitter for refills of dwindling oxygen supplies. Friends and many professional contacts were fighting for their lives. Doctor friends were weeping with impotent rage.

There was much grim news of death. A former Indian ambassador died after hours waiting in a hospital parking lot for admission; inpatients whose oxygen ran out; a top politician’s 34-year-old son, young journalists. Crematoriums struggled with an unprecedented flow of bodies.

I decided I had to tune out of the unfolding crisis, to ensure my physical recovery and to protect my mental health. I stopped checking Twitter. Newspapers piled up, unread.

Once I felt better and tuned back, I saw Narendra Modi’s government had cynically expanded eligibility for vaccination to all over the age of 18, despite an acute shortage of jabs.

And with thousands dying daily, often for want of medical help, the health minister was callously citing dubious official data to claim India’s Covid fatality rate was lower than richer countries — hardly consolation to grief-stricken families.

Today, I’ve recovered from my encounter with the virus. It will take far longer to get over the trauma of watching this calamity engulf the place I call home.

amy.kazmin@ft.com



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Indian foreign minister self-isolates after Covid cases detected in G7 delegation

Published

on

By


India’s foreign minister on Wednesday said that he was self-isolating after two members of the country’s delegation to the G7 meetings in London tested positive for coronavirus.

The face-to-face meetings in the UK capital began on Monday and are scheduled to end on Wednesday. Representatives from G7 countries such as Canada, Germany and France are attending alongside Australia and India as the UK seeks to strengthen its ties within the Indo-Pacific region.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed on Twitter that he was informed on Tuesday evening that he had been exposed to a possible Covid-19 case.

“As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode,” he added. It is understood that the rest of the Indian delegation will self- isolate for the remainder of the G7 meetings.

Jaishankar held a socially distanced meeting with UK home secretary Priti Patel on Tuesday, where two agreed on a “migration and mobility deal” which will provide a “bespoke route” for young professionals from India looking to live and work in the UK. He met Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, earlier this week.

“We deeply regret that foreign minister Jaishankar will be unable to attend the meeting today in person,” a senior UK diplomat said. “(He) will now attend virtually, but this is exactly why we have put in place strict Covid protocols and daily testing.”



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Blinken rejects claims of ‘cold war’ between US and China

Published

on

By


America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken has rejected claims the US is entering a cold war with China during a visit to London to discuss with G7 counterparts how best to respond to the challenges posed by Beijing.

In an interview with Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf for The Global Boardroom, Blinken said he resisted “putting labels on most relationships including this one, because it’s complex”.

“This is not about initiating a cold war, this is all about doing our part to make sure that democracy is strong, resilient, and meeting the needs of its people,” he said, referring to Washington’s intention to hold a “democracy summit” later in the year.

Joe Biden, US president, has promised to “win” the 21st century in what he has portrayed as a “battle” between democracies and autocracies and has pointed to Chinese activities that the US says are damaging the international order.

Relations between the US and China deteriorated under the Trump administration and the countries remain at loggerheads over security, human rights, intellectual property, and rules governing trade and commerce.

“We’re not asking countries to choose [between the US and China],” Blinken added in remarks at the FT Live event on Tuesday, which were broadcast after G7 countries opened their meeting with a session on China.

Ahead of the event, a US state department official said the G7 session on Tuesday morning was intended to be a forum to discuss how to work closely with allies and partners to address shared challenges from a position of strength.

Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, far right, is meeting with G7 leaders in London to discuss how best to respond to the challenges posed by Beijing © Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Getty

Blinken said the US recognised that countries have complicated relationships, including with China, and that the US did not believe other countries’ economic relationships with Beijing “need to be cut off or ended”. However, he said the US wanted to foster and protect basic rules governing commerce, the environment, intellectual property and technology.

Biden has surprised many foreign policy experts by taking an approach to China that has more in common than not with the harsh stance taken by former president Donald Trump. One big difference has been a significant effort to work with US allies and partners to create more leverage to deal with Beijing.

His approach has been welcomed by allies in Asia, such as Japan and Australia. But there is concern in the EU about the bloc being caught between the US and China, particularly in Germany.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, has said the EU and the US do not agree on everything and that it was “absolutely clear” that their interests were “not identical” when it came to China.

The G7 comprises the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, and this year the UK has also invited Australia, India, South Korea, Brunei and South Africa to attend as guests.

Biden recently convened the first leader-level meeting of the Quad — a group that includes the US, Japan, India and Australia — as part of this effort to work with allies to counter Beijing.

Evan Medeiros, professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University, said the Biden team’s engagement with the G7 formed part of its effort to assemble coalitions to tackle the China challenge.

He said the administration was pursuing the right strategy by saying the US did not want a cold war and did not want countries to pick sides, but he added: “The reality is everybody is going to have to make choices when it comes to China.”

But Bonnie Glaser, Asia programme director at the German Marshall Fund of the US, highlighted concerns among some that Washington’s stance was “too aggressive and too confrontational”.

“I definitely have the impression that the Germans and some other Europeans are really quite unhappy about the US approach to China,” she said.

In March, the US, EU, UK and Canada co-ordinated the imposition of sanctions on Chinese officials over the country’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the western Xinjiang region, triggering retaliatory sanctions from Beijing.

Biden administration officials including Blinken frame the future of the US relationship with China as “competitive, collaborative and adversarial”, depending on the issue in question.

Washington wants to co-operate with Beijing on foreign policy issues including Iran, North Korea and climate change while also defending US interests in the military, technological and economic spheres and pushing back on human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Blinken said that “a democratic recession around the world” had occurred over the past 15 years, but admitted the US had its own challenges “visible for the world to see” when it comes to democracy, in a thinly veiled reference to the disputed presidential election and January 6 Capitol attacks.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending