voice for democracy

On the issue of democracy – Modern Diplomacy

On August 20th, 2021, while answering one of the questions during the press conference, the official Spokesperson of the People’s Republic of China, Hua Chunying, expressed an interesting idea: “What is democracy? Who gets to define it? How to judge whether a country is democratic? These rights should not be monopolized by the US and its few allies.” According to the speaker, Afghanistan has become an example of the fact that an imposed or transplanted democracy doesn`t last long, and now the whole world is watching the consequences.
All of it suggests the following idea – what is democracy? And who actually has the right to decide what democracy is?
The origins of democracy, at least from the linguistic perspectives, are coming from the ancient Greek language, and the word itself consists of two parts: “δήμος” (demos), which is frequently used in a meaning of “people living on a certain territory”, and “κράτος” (kratos), what means “force, power”. And if in case with “kratos” everything is clear, “demos” keeps raising questions that many linguists want to answer. It is worth mentioning the fact that in many sources “demos” is translated as “people”, what is not quite correct because it also has a meaning of “territory, country, region”, and “free  people with civil rights” (different from foreigners and slaves). At the same time the meaning of “people” can also be found at three other Greek words: “λαος” (laos) – “people”, “οχλος” (ochlos) – “people (as crowd)”, “εθνος” (ethnos) – “people (as nation)”. According to Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, at that time “only male citizens who were older than 18 were a part of the demos.”
Moving from Ancient Greece towards modern times, it is worth paying attention to such document as “Magna Carta” (the Great Charter), created in England in 1215. It is considered to be one of the first documents which recorded some provisions of democracy – thus reflecting democratic values. However, it didn`t use the term “democracy”. It is noteworthy that the Constitution of the US had partially taken from Magna Carta, and many US officials mentioned the importance of this document. “The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history… It was written in Magna Carta,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his inauguration speech in 1941. On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015, the US President Barack Obama made a speech and stated that “the ideals of the Magna Carta inspired America’s forefathers to define and protect many of the rights expressed in our founding documents, which we continue to cherish today.”
As a result, it is clear that democracy as a defined term belongs to the West. That is why it is not surprising that it is the West who is trying to impose it on the others – by following its own vision and interpretation. What is not only incorrect, but can also lead to a tragedy – as the example of Afghanistan is demonstrating now.
Main states of the East and the West were formed without having any points of intersection, what is explained by geography and technical development progress of the past. Thus, their political systems were evolving in accordance with local peculiarities, so it fits in the logic that what was normal for the West, wasn`t always fitting in the Eastern worldview – and vice versa. As the Spokesperson of the PRC rightly noted: “<…> cold milk on a daily basis doesn’t agree with a Chinese stomach and chopsticks are not often used by Americans. A meal of hamburger or steak with fork and knife is not the only way to get one well fed.”
So is democracy.
Everybody knows that there are numerous definitions and interpretations of a term “democracy” which differ from each other, but again – they all are based on ideas and theories developed by the Western world, what leads to a logical question: is there an Asian definition of democracy? South American, Asia-Pacific, African? And if it exists, is it similar or different to the Western understanding, and to what extent? Yes, the Western interpretation was developed earlier, but it doesn`t mean that this interpretation is the sole possessor of the ultimate truth, because even it in its turn is based on the works of the ancient Greek scholars, who lived centuries ago in absolutely different environment and worked under completely different circumstances. That is why it is possible that there are other definitions which due to some reasons didn`t get much attention and that is why a few people know about their existence. So why now, at the age of globalization and strengthened interconnections, states are following what is being imposed on them by one country which itself is not a full democracy?
An interesting fact: the USA – the main “fighter” for democracy – is not a full, but a partial (flawed) democracy. According to the research on the democracy index, conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit, the USA ended up on the 25th place out of 167, with the result 7.92/10, while Norway – the top-1 – had 9.81/10.  But at the same time Norway (and also Iceland and Sweden, who occupy 2nd and 3rd place correspondently), were not spotted in any conflicts and try to adhere to neutrality, while the USA doesn`t leave the news pages covering events in the world.
The world is constantly developing, and the states are members of the international society, whether they want it or not. Nobody stays isolated even if they want to because it is just impossible. That is why interpretation and vision of political regimes is extremely important for maintaining stability in the international society. At the period of political tensions a careless expression towards another party, what can also be attributed to the accusation of being “non-democratic”, can result in a confrontation which will definitely affect the others. Saying that, maybe it is worth defining what is democracy after all? And what is the most important, to give a definition which won`t be a one-sided point of view, suiting only a certain group.
Otherwise, the whole world will go on living with a question – “does our country need your democracy?”
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PhD in International Relations in Jilin University, China, postdoctoral fellow in Global Engagement Academy, Shandong University (Weihai), China. Contact: kolotov711[at]rambler.ru
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The U.S. has 3.85 times as high a percentage of its population killed from the covid-19 virus as does the entire world. Whereas America has had 2,158 covid-19 deaths per million population, the world has had 617 covid-19 deaths per million population. Thus far, there have been 719,615 such U.S. deaths, and 4,481,499 global deaths. America, with 4.21% of the world’s population, accounts for 16% of all covid-19 deaths. Of course, if it were an average country, it would account for 4.21%. That’s how bad America’s performance has actually been.
On 15 September 2020, Pew headlined their global poll “U.S. Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly”.
On 22 April 2020, I had headlined “Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty”, and explained that the U.S. Government, in the policies that it was putting into place, was concerned about both the public and its billionaires, but was far more concerned to bail out the billionaires than to protect the public; and, so, the billionaires would boom, their stock markets would benefit enormously by the going-out-of-business of the owners of smaller firms, even while millions of Americans would lose their jobs and increasingly the homeless population would grow. I explained why the extremely poor public-health system in the United States would increasingly become overburdened and that people would increasingly die, for reasons such as — because of the relative lack of U.S. protections of the public — workers would be increasingly desperate to stay at work even when they know that they might get the covid disease themselves and/or spread it to their co-workers and to people they serve at restaurants, etc.: they would stay employed where they are for as long as possible. This would produce in America exceptionally high ratios of the U.S. population becoming infected with the virus and transmitting it to others.
So, it has all happened, though more slowly than I had expected it to happen.
In 2000, America’s ratio of government debt to GDP was 70%. In 2016, it was 120%. In 2000, America’s ratio of federal government debt to GDP was 55%, and that became 105% in 2016. After 2016, there wasn’t much change in those ratios, but no figures have yet been released after 2019 — in other words, during the covid crisis. However, the federal Government has released to the public that, “In FY 2020 the federal deficit was $3,129 billion. But the gross federal debt increased by $4,230 billion”; and, “This year, FY 2021, the federal government in its latest budget has estimated that the deficit will be $3,669 billion.” A chart there also shows that the federal deficit in 2019 was $1,000 billion ($1T), but that in 2020, that exploded upward to a little over $3,000 billion ($3T). All of this explosion added to the federal debt. Most of the additional money to the nation’s debt became added to the wealth of billionaires and centi-millionaires; the rest of it went to everybody else. One of the extreme realities about the American Government is that it protects the richest — billionaires and centi-millionaires — against risks, more than it protects the public (overwhelmingly their workers) against risks; and, in this way, the richest in this country (the investors) are shielded against risks far more than the citizenry-at-large are. Workers here get the worst: the highest risks, and no controlling ownership of any major corporation. The richest get controlling ownerships in major corporations, plus the lowest risks of anyone.
(Incidentally: federal debt in 2019 — the latest year reported by the U.S. Government — was $22,669 billion or $22.67T. So, in 2020, it became $4,230 billion higher, or $26.87T, an annual increase-rate of 18.5%. The federal Government has already calculated these facts, but still hasn’t yet released them to the public.)
These facts are typical with oligarchies — countries that are controlled by their billionaires, or “aristocrats.” Most countries are like this, but the fact that America, with 4.21% of the world’s population, has 16% of the world’s covid-19 deaths, shows that America is more like this than most countries are. A few countries are even worse than America.
In such countries, lots of people are more desperate, in the covid era, than they were before, but, also, many of the few people who aren’t, nonetheless don’t much mind high risk, because in a culture that rewards owning businesses more than it rewards working for businesses, risk-taking is respected, and actual work is less valued. Thus, in America, the poor are despised, no matter how hard they work. This, too, is common in oligarchies. That’s why their goverment protects them from risks. The rich have inculcated into the public a respect for the rich, and a contempt for the poor.
America is a typical oligarchy, except that it’s bigger than most.
And, so, this is my cultural and economic explanation of why America, with 4.21% of World’s Population, Has 16% of Covid-19 Deaths.
Right now, here are the 20 countries that have the world’s highest percentages of their population thus far killed by covid 19:
1. Peru
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
3. North Macedonia
4. Hungary
5. Montenegro
6. Bulgaria
7. Gibraltar
8. Czechia
9. Brazil
10. San Marino
11. Argentina
12. Colombia
13. Slovakia
14. Georgia
15. Paraguay
16. French Polynesia
17. Belgium
18. Slovenia
19. Italy
20. USA
All of that information is at the same site which also documents that America, with 4.21% of the world’s population, has 16% of the world’s covid-19 deaths. (This site also documents that whereas China’s covid-19 death-rate per million inhabitants, thus far, has been 3, and that the same figure in the United States is 2,158 — it’s 719 times higher. Peru has the world’s worst performance, 5,945, which is 198 times higher than China’s.)
How many of those 20 countries are authentic democracies? Is any of them, really? If the public respect “entrepreneurs” more than they respect “workers,” then what is the actual likelihood that the nation will actually be a democracy? Aren’t they really bowing down to their aristocracy? They’ve evidently been successfully indoctrinated, by the aristocracy. And, they’re now dying, as a result of this — they are dying because of their culture’s accepting (instead of condemning) this aristocratic indoctrination.
223 countries are listed, but some of them have fewer than 10,000 residents. None of the worst 20 countries are that small. In fact, the best-performing of all countries of over 5,000,000 population is the world’s most populous country, China, which has a “zero-tolerance” policy on covid-19, and a rigorous scientific system in place to carry out that policy. So, China is at the exact opposite end from the 20 nations that are listed above. Perhaps, over the long term, this might turn out to have been China’s biggest advantage as an international economic competitor. But, instead of the U.S. Government’s praising and emulating China, the U.S. Government is now trying to dictate to China, and — unless China obeys — to overthrow its Government, and to grab control, over Taiwan, and also over China’s coastal waters. America operates a global empire, but its billionaires are never satisfied, and are determined for it to encompass every nation. The billionaires control their Government; the American public do not.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
The prospects for talks on an Iranian nuclear deal are becoming increasingly dim. After Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential election in the United States and was sworn in, Washington started to pursue a return to negotiating the JCPOA. The new administration aims to overcome the legacy of Donald Trump, who unilaterally broke the deal even though it was sealed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of 2015. In 2018, Trump renewed the unilateral US sanctions against Iran, and went on to tighten the restrictive measures even further. Eventually Iran also began to refuse the deal, resuming uranium enrichment to 20% in accordance with the law “On the strategic measures for the lifting of sanctions”.
In April 2021, the parties began indirect negotiations in Vienna, where a meeting of the signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA) took place. However, the efforts of the diplomats did not bring visible results. For all appearances, the indefinite prolongation of the talks is not in the interests of the United States. From the point of view of the US State Department, the delay allows Iran to move even further in its military nuclear programme. However, getting back to the deal will be difficult. It will be even more difficult to keep it.
The positions of Washington and Tehran on the deal are well known. Iran is demanding that the US first lift all sanctions that the US renewed or introduced in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. After that, Iran will return to fulfilling its obligations. The United States, on the other hand, is demanding that Tehran first return to the deal, and say that only then will it be ready to consider the issue of sanctions. The mutual level of trust between the parties is practically zero. Trump’s demarche to withdraw from the JCPOA seriously undermined the US’s image as a reliable negotiator, not only in Iran, but even among America’s allies. The United States itself is also very suspicious towards Iran. In fact, the Republicans formed the basis of the opposition to Barack Obama’s efforts to conclude a JCPOA. Donald Trump simply brought his party’s position on the “bad deal” to its logical conclusion. It will be extremely difficult to bring the positions of the two countries closer together. In theory, we could talk about synchronising the process of lifting sanctions and winding down the nuclear programme. But here, too, problems arise. What will be the parameters of such a synchronisation? And, most importantly, how is it possible to ensure that one of the parties does not break the new agreements?
For Iran, this issue is more important, if not existential. The resumption of US sanctions in 2018 led to the collapse of the Iranian economy. One of the key factors is the ban on the purchase of Iranian oil. Moreover, the United States is successfully imposing its anti-Iranian sanctions on foreign countries, using secondary sanctions mechanisms and coercive measures. The same applies to oil transportation, the insurance of such transportation, as well as new financial and sectoral sanctions imposed by Trump. The situation has been aggravated by the COVID-19 epidemic. At least a partial lifting of the sanctions would be a breath of fresh air for the Iranian economy. On the other hand, the Iranians also perceive the nuclear programme in an existential way. Intervention by the United States and its allies is unlikely in the current environment. Its price will be high. Moreover, the United States is concentrating its forces on containing the PRC and Russia, curtailing “toxic assets” in the Middle East. But the possession of nuclear weapons can also be seen as a factor that will make such an intervention simply impossible. Here, however, there may be another situation, when the appearance of nuclear weapons, on the contrary, provokes the United States, Israel and other regional players to pursue such an intervention. Apparently, Tehran understands this well and will use the nuclear theme energetically, but carefully.
For the United States, the situation looks very different. The prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons may be unpleasant, but not fatal. Iran is just one of many items on the US foreign policy agenda. Moreover, it can be used as a pretext for an even more radical build-up of sanctions, including the UN Security Council. Moscow and Beijing are also not eager to see Iran among the nuclear powers, although the blame for the Iranian nuclear efforts is being placed on Washington, and not without serious reasons. Acquiring nuclear weapons will strengthen Iran’s isolation. Moreover, it will be politically more difficult to give up nuclear weapons once they have been obtained. The big question is whether Iran is ready for even more severe economic hardship? Answering this question is extremely difficult. Hardliners, for example, might argue that such tests are guaranteed anyway, until Iran surrenders on all fronts. Supporters of diplomacy may respond by combining the rate hike with the coalition game, seeking to isolate the United States under the JCPOA and exploiting loopholes in sanctions regimes.
The debate within the United States itself promises to be difficult. On the surface it seems that the US president has the authority to lift sanctions immediately. President Trump resumed applying the restrictive measures by executive order. Such a decree can be cancelled or modified either by a new executive order or via a new law that could be passed by Congress. That is, technically, Biden has the authority to ease the sanctions on a large scale. However, in reality the situation is more complicated. In 2015, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). In the event of a deal, the president is required to inform Congress every 90 days of its progress and certify that Iran is adhering to the terms of the deal. Obviously, under the current conditions, such certification in favour of Iran is simply impossible. This means that Biden cannot agree to the lifting of sanctions without the risk of serious losses of his political capital. In other words, Tehran’s requests are unacceptable for the US President.
On the other hand, Biden can soften or modify those Trump decrees that he introduced after leaving the deal and which have seriously tightened sanctions. US law does not provide for the president to be accountable for these decrees. So Congress is unlikely to be a major obstacle here. For example, Biden could soften or modify Trump’s executive order 13902 of January 10, 2020, which imposed sectoral and blocking sanctions on the construction, mining, manufacturing, textile and other sectors of the Iranian economy. The same applies to executive order 13871 of May 9, 2019, which introduced sectoral and blocking sanctions on the production of iron, steel, aluminium and copper. In addition, Biden may well be using the sanctions exemptions imposed by numerous laws previously passed by Congress. In particular, in April 2019, Trump cancelled such exemptions for the import of Iranian oil for eight countries. Here the US President has a certain negotiation gap, which he can use to bargain with Iran.
However, even if a new deal is reached, its stability is not guaranteed. One of the reasons is that it is not easy to isolate the nuclear programme from the general package of contradictions between the United States and Iran. At one time, Obama tried to do this, and now Biden is following this path. Republicans and Trump, on the contrary, insisted on a package concept, where the nuclear programme is linked to other problems. These include the missile programme, human rights, the problem of terrorism and much more. The Democratic approach seems reasonable, because it is simply impossible to make progress on the entire package. The Republican approach makes sense as a means of raising rates and building up pressure. The competition between these two approaches is unlikely to end in the foreseeable future, hampering the stability of possible agreements.
From our partner RIAC
America’s congressional progressives should join with the Republican Party’s mere bluff-campaign to drive the U.S. Government into defaulting on its bonds, so that congressional Republicans’ repeated threats to shut down the Government will either shut it down or else enormously embarrass the Republican Party and disappoint its base of voters by exposing the fraudulence, on fiscal and military issues, of congressional Republicans. Doing this would not help congressional Republicans, but it would greatly help the American people; and here is why:
International relations are now reaching the brinks of war between the U.S. and its allies, on the one hand, versus Russia and its allies on the other (including China), so that World War III could happen at virtually any time now. Russia and its allies never privatized their weapons-manufacturers; and, so, they’re not controlled by their weapons-makers as America and its allies are. In those ‘enemy’ countries, the armament-firms don’t control the Government; but, in ours, they do. On the U.S.-and-allied side, war is actually the main source of profits and wealth for the biggest investors, who control the successful politicians and their Government. It’s why America is constantly at war. In order for U.S.-and-allied weapons-manufacturing firms (“government contractors”) such as Lockheed Martin and BAE to thrive, they need to increase their weapons-sales to their own Government and also to its allied Governments (who also buy weapons from those firms). Such firms sell little or nothing to consumers; governments are their markets. Consequently, the weapons-manufacturers need to control their government and its international relations including the designations of which foreign nations will be “allies” and which will instead be “enemies” (or targets); and they therefore have large lobbying-operations and make crucial political donations to all but the few members of Congress who oppose new wars and new weapons-procurements. 
As a consequence, U.S.-and-allied Governments, but especially America itself, are controlled by its MIC. Constant wars, and military invasions, result from this fact — to “feed the beast.” Doing this (having wars) forces up the percentage of tax-monies that get spent for ‘defense’, and forces down the percentage that gets spent for the public’s health, education and welfare. “It’s national security, and national security comes first,” they say. Consequently, the nation’s public suffer, while the billionaires who control their armaments-producers and their news-media, and who fund the political PACS and basically determine which politicians will have enough campaign-funds to be able to win public offices, thrive, by controlling their Government and its expenditures, and thereby making sure that their military contractors will always be profitable and growing. This mechanism is how the MIC functions. The only way that it can be stopped (the only way that the military’s grip on the U.S. federal Government can be ended) will be the topic here.
The MIC started in 1945 when America, the WW II participant that suffered the least damage from the fascist powers, emerged suddenly as the most powerful nation and with the most-rapidly-growing arms-producers. President Truman, with the advice of General Eisenhower, decided to keep that military boom going, and felt that the United States should control the entire planet, including the Soviet Union. This joint decision by Truman, under the advice of Eisenhower, is what caused them to end the War Department, which had been created by America’s Founders, and to start the Defense Department, the nation’s permanent standing army and other military forces, and also to create the CIA, all in order for the United States to ultimately become the one-and-only global hegemon, or, as President Obama often proudly proclaimed, “the one indispensable nation,” meaning that all other nations are “dispensable” — they consist only of vassal-nations, and of target-nations. U.S. arms-producers sell to ‘allies’, but their weapons are to be targeted against ‘enemies’. Both are required. That’s the business which drives post-WW-II America.
The least-damaging way to stop this is for the U.S. Government to go into default on its bonds. That would be just the first step, but it’s the essential step. (Socializing America’s armaments-manufacturers — the Government taking majority-control over them so that those firms’ private stockholders will no longer control the U.S. Government — is the only ultimate solution, but that can’t happen unless the Government first goes bankrupt. In fact, for the Government to declare itself to be the 51% owner of each of its top-100 ‘defense’ contractors would not only eliminate the profit motive that currently drives U.S. ‘defense’ policies, but it would redirect huge sums of previous ‘defense’ expenditures into serving the actual needs of its citizens.) 
Even more momentous than the issue of global warming (which would end the world gradually) is the issue of WW III — it must be avoided, at all costs. The lowest-cost way to do this would start with the U.S. Government’s defaulting on its bonds, and, then, taking 51% of all of the country’s major arms-makers (so that the military will cease controlling its Government). Control of the Government by the private owners of the Government’s military contractors is also bad because it produces massive corruption, which finally needs to end.
As practically everyone knows by now, “Trillions of Dollars in U.S. Military Spending Are Unaccounted-For”. (This is one of the reasons why the U.S. Government currently spends approximately half of the entire planet’s military expenditures.) However, as the researcher who first documented to the public this massive leakage in military expenditures, Mark Skidmore, recently stated, in an interview, the situation has now become even worse. He said in his interview by the independent journalist John Rachel: “In January 2018, the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASAB) Standard 56 was adopted by the federal government. Standard 56 gives a small number of people (precisely who is unknown) the authority to modify financial statements available to the public. (FASAB Standard 56 and the Authority of the Director of National Intelligence to Waive SEC Financial Reporting – The Missing Money (solari.com)). There are no limitations or parameters around how much the books can be doctored. Further, government authorities are under no obligation to tell the public that the books have been altered. Standard 56 applies to all federal entities and agencies. In summary, we now have two sets of books…a modified one for the public, and a real set that remains hidden. I have no way of knowing the degree to which the books have been altered. (Holding U.S. Treasurys? Beware: Uncle Sam Can’t Account For $21 Trillion (forbes.com)Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending? – Rolling Stone).” The reason that the “small number of people (precisely who is unknown)” is not being made public could be that this new rule was instituted precisely because of Professor Skidmore’s having discovered and disclosed publicly that a total of $21 trillion in Pentagon expenditures were untraceable. Apparently, the U.S. Government finally gave up on its repeatedly failed efforts to get a passable audit done of the Pentagon — in other words: that “small number of people” he referred to might be specifically the Defense Department, the unauditable Department of the U.S. Government. Standard 56 might be intended specifically and only for the unauditable Department. That is the ONLY Department which has never been successfully audited. Many people infer from this fact (the uniqueness of the ‘Defense’ Department’s unauditability), that this Department is by far the most corrupt Department of the U.S. federal Government. But, of course, if the MIC has, indeed, swallowed the entire U.S. Government — taken it over — then it has become the military tail that wags the U.S. dog; and, so, one would reasonably expect this sort of situation to exist (that the Pentagon is just hopelessly corrupt — that it can’t function in any other way).
Is this a tolerable situation? Obviously, the U.S. Government is no authentic democracy. It might have been before 1945, but it certainly isn’t one now. (In fact, that has been scientifically proven.) Consequently, a second American revolution is urgently needed, so as to restore the U.S. Constitution. The only question is how to do it in the least-destructive way. I propose that, probably by far the least destructive way would start with a bankruptcy of the U.S. Federal Government. It’s going to happen (unless WW III ends everything first). But when? This is the best time to do that. It would also be less destructive to do it now, instead of later. Every additional year of delay is a year of increasing the dangers and the catastrophe that continued inaction brings.
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