Fareed: The World Is Reminding Us That Democracy Is Hard

“The news this week that democracy is imperiled in Tunisia—the only success story of the Arab Spring—comes just three weeks after we heard that Haiti’s president had been assassinated,” Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column. “Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the government seems unable to establish authority across the country. It got me thinking about one of the fundamental questions of politics: Why is it so difficult to develop and sustain liberal democracy?”

Citing the work of Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Fareed writes that liberal democracy is a rare sweet spot, requiring a state strong enough to maintain order but not so overbearing as to repress liberties. It has flourished in the West not because of any special culture, but because of a unique—and lucky—history that involved challenges to political authority.

As Congress examines the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Fareed is reminded of what Benjamin Franklin reputedly said when asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention should adopt: A republic—if you can keep it. “The delegates could have designed the best system in the world, but its success ultimately rested with the people,” Fareed writes. “That sounds like an ominous warning, but we might also take comfort—the power to preserve democracy is in our hands.”

China Has a Stake in Afghanistan, Too

China shares a sliver of border with Afghanistan and is said to view it as a potential market for infrastructure projects, so it may come as little surprise that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a delegation of Taliban officials in Tianjin.

Beijing is taking a tough tone on regional instability, expressing displeasure with the US and NATO withdrawal, Brahma Chellaney writes for Nikkei Asia, predicting Beijing will approach the region (including the Taliban) pragmatically. China’s “concerns are essentially centered on its economic interests in Pakistan and Central Asia—especially resource-rich Tajikistan—and the safety of Chinese nationals working on projects there.” Given Chinese influence and the prospect of infrastructure and development spending, Chellaney writes, the Taliban appears to be game.

Should Europe Build Its Own Clouds?

“Today, non-European service providers host 80% of European data,” Alice Pannier writes for the Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI), citing the European Commission and noting that the cloud-storage market is dominated (including in Europe) by a handful of American companies, notably Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. When it comes to how data are handled, Europe is at the vanguard of raising the alarm about privacy: The EU’s 2016 General Data Protection Regulation, for instance, prompted browser-cookie alerts across the continent.

Given concerns that US companies may use, or that the US government may exert jurisdiction over, Europeans’ data in various ways, Europe has drafted industry players into a consortium known as GAIA-X, intended to set data standards. But a more ambitious (and effective) endgame might entail cloud services of and for Europe, Pannier writes, as “the EU is seeking to help develop future European cloud offers” to circumvent the problem.

Peru Turns Left—but How Sharply?

This month, Peru confirmed the winner of its June presidential election: Pedro Castillo, a leftist former teacher and union leader with no previous experience in elective office, who campaigned iconically in a wide-brimmed hat, holding an oversized pencil. Castillo, in turn, has sworn in a fellow member of his Marxist party as prime minister. Despite apparent market concerns about Peru’s macroeconomic direction, John Sakellariadis writes for Global Americans that it’s not clear how dramatically Castillo will change things.

So far, Castillo “has eschewed the flourishes of left-wing, nationalist rhetoric that made headlines during his presidential campaign and [has] begun appointing a team of economic advisors more closely aligned with the country’s moderate left,” Sakellariadis writes. “[C]aught between a party apparatus intent on radical reform, an obstructionist congress bent on preventing it, and an electorate that remains bitterly divided about significant reform in the first place,” Castillo will have his work cut out.

The Upside to GMO Foods

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have provoked backlash among American and European consumers, but in a recent New York Times Magazine essay, Jennifer Kahn posed GMO opposition as, partly, a fear of the unknown. Scientists are engineering things like purple, antioxidant-rich tomatoes, bruise-resistant potatoes, and apples that don’t brown when cut; though “Big Ag” may be most interested in crops that resist herbicides, researchers have geared some of these experimental plants toward home gardeners, Kahn wrote, and GMOs could make biodiversity more available to dinner tables.

“Genetic engineering and G.M.O.s could help undo” losses in horticultural diversity, “restoring rare and delicate heirloom varieties that were once abundant but have now all but disappeared,” Kahn wrote. “While the apricot will most likely never be hardy or controllable enough for mass production, it might be made sturdy enough to allow small producers to plant an orchard that’s sustainable.”

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good

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