Behind the Guns: International Economic Law as a Strategy for Regime Change

A Transcript of the Paper by Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand, delivered at the 12th Rhodes Forum in September 2014

I am delighted to be able to make some contribution to such an esteemed panel. When I got the invitation I thought as a critic of international economic agreements what might I be able to contribute to this dialogue. My starting point is some reflections on international law from Tony Anghie in his book entitled “Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law”. One of the features of the post-World War II period has been the increasing role of international economic law as a vehicle for superpowers. Anghie said quite incisively that the old law of conquest created the inequalities that we now see in the new international law of contracts that perpetuate, legalize and substantiate the concept of neutrality, but a neutrality that is in fact based on those inequalities when the international agreements that the Third World states entered into in particular are enforced against them. The notion of progressive international law that we heard in the last panel, I am going to take issue with to some degree as international economic law being in fact one of the vehicles for ongoing imperialism.


Wir verlieren Russland

Von Martin Hoffmann, Der Tagesspiegel, 18 November, 2014

Plädoyer für einen Neuanfang der Beziehungen

Dies ist ein Weckruf. Ein Weckruf an all jene in der Politik, die schlafwandelnd auf die Überlegenheit des Westens vertrauen. An diejenigen, die davon überzeugt sind, der Westen müsse endlich Stärke zeigen und seine Sanktionen verstärken. Auch an jene Ostpolitiker mit Augenmaß, die auf den Dialog setzen, aber überzeugt sind, ein Krieg sei ausgeschlossen und am Ende werde die Vernunft siegen.


Catholic Social Thought and Post-liberal Political Economy

By Adrian Pabst, Radical Orthodoxy Annual Review, University of Kent

The crisis reveals that globalisation since the 1970s has so expanded and speeded up the processes of capitalist change as to engender something qualitatively different. More than ever before global capitalism erodes the ‘moral economy’ of mutual obligations on which economic exchange ultimately depends. By further reducing everything and everyone to a tradable commodity, capital constantly expands the reach of the market into new areas and creates more opportunities both nationally and globally. But by the same token, it undermines relationships, reciprocity and responsibility without which markets cannot generate lasting prosperity or combine private profit with social benefit.

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China's Silky Road to Glory

Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, November 14, 2014

Predictably, once again, this vertiginous flurry of deals and investment had to converge towards the most spectacular, ambitious, wide-ranging plurinational infrastructure offensive ever attempted: the multiple New Silk Roads - that complex network of high-speed rail, pipelines, ports, fiber optic cables and state of the art telecom that China is already building across the Central Asian stans, linked to Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Indian Ocean, and branching out to Europe all the way to Venice, Rotterdam, Duisburg and Berlin.


ISIS, Militarism and the Violent Imagination

An Article by Richard Falk published at the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, September 26, 2014

Before ISIS

The beheading of American and British journalists who were being held hostage by ISIS creates a truly horrifying spectacle, and quite understandably mobilizes the political will to destroy the political actor who so shocks and frightens the Western sensibility, which is far from being free from responsibility for such lurid incidents.

Never in modern times has there been a clearer example of violence begetting violence.

And we need to ask ‘to what end?’ Political leaders in the West are remarkably silent and dishonest about what it is that they wish to achieve in this region beset since 2011 by a quite terrifying outbreak of political extremism, whether from above as in the cases of Syria, Egypt, and Israel or from below as with ISIS and al-Nusra.


A Solution for an Unsolvable Problem? Recognition of the State of Palestine – by Israel, now!

By Walter Schwimmer, Former Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”

The new Swedish government officially recognized on October 30, 2014 the State of Palestine (1). British Parliament voted two weeks earlier on a resolution in favour of backing the recognition of the Palestinian State (2). And even the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini spoke during her first official visit to Israel and Palestine in November 2014 in favour of the recognition of the Palestinian State (3).

Already on November 29, 2012 United Nations General Assembly, voting by an overwhelming majority, accorded Palestine “Non-Member-State” observer status in the UN. Did these important acts change anything on the ground? Certainly not. The only recognition which would count would be the one expressed by the State of Israel – in its own interest. Officially the government of Israel is in favour of the so-called two-states-resolution. So, what has been going wrong, why the world is waiting since the Oslo and Washington Peace Accord for the decisive step?


Some Very Initial Thoughts on the US-China Deal

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, November 12, 2014

Much of China’s emissions come from producing the products that Westerners buy. It never made sense to treat such an integrated and global challenge as something that individual nations could tackle on their own: transnational problems call for transnational solutions. That said, emissions won’t go down by as much as they need to go down until we in the West start consuming less useless stuff, wherever it is made.


The Day Dostoyevsky Discovered the Meaning of Life in a Dream

By Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, November 11, 2014

“And it is so simple… You will instantly find how to live.”

One November night in the 1870s, legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821–February 9, 1881) discovered the meaning of life in a dream — or, at least, the protagonist in his final short story did. The piece, which first appeared in the altogether revelatory A Writer’s Diary (public library) under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and was later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, explores themes similar to those in Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novel Notes from the Underground, considered the first true existential novel. True to Stephen King’s assertion that “good fiction is the truth inside the lie,” the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky’s personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarity — perhaps more so than any of his other published works. The contemplation at its heart falls somewhere between Tolstoy’s tussle with the meaning of life and Philip K. Dick’s hallucinatory exegesis.


China's 'Marshall Plan' Is Much More

An Article by Dingding Chen published at The Diplomat on November 10, 2014

China’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative is no Marshall plan — it’s far more ambitious.

Chinese President Xi Jinping just announced that China will establish a Silk Road fund with $40 billion to support infrastructure investments in countries involved in the “one belt, one road” plan. This new proposal is in addition to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) proposal that 21 countries have already joined. A critical element of such plans is to “break the connectivity bottleneck” in Asia and beyond, which has seriously hindered development in many developing countries. Presumably a large amount of funding will go to building roads, railways, and ports in these countries. Thus, many analysts (see for example here, here, and here) have labeled China’s new initiatives as a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan, indicating that China would use such initiatives to seek influence and even dominance in Asia.

To be sure, there are some seeming similarities between China’s “one belt, one road” initiative with the U.S. Marshall plan, with the main one being that both plans aim at exporting their country’s capital, technology, and capacity to others who need them badly. But there are some major differences between China’s “one belt, one road” initiative and the Marshall Plan, which have not received adequate attention from many analysts. More specifically, China’s Silk Road vision is different from the Marshall Plan in motivation, challenges, and potential impact.