In October 2013, the U.S. Department of State eliminated its funding program for advanced language and cultural training on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Created in 1983 as a special appropriation by Congress, the so-called Title VIII Program had supported generations of specialists working in academia, think tanks, and the U.S. government itself. But as a State Department official told the Russian news service RIA Novosti at the time, “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it.”
As China’s global power grows, Beijing is learning that its image matters. For all its economic and military might, the country suffers from a severe shortage of soft power. According to global public opinion surveys, it enjoys a decidedly mixed international image.
Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East.
Every month, nearly one million people flee their homes because of conflicts or natural disasters. With few wars ending, and new wars starting, the number of people displaced by conflict now exceeds 50 million. Not since World War II have people sought refuge—in their own countries or in neighboring states—on such a scale.
The global humanitarian system, already under considerable strain, will soon be tested as never before. In 2013, the gap between the funds available for humanitarian aid and estimated global needs reached $4.5 billion, leaving at least one-third of the demand unmet. The gap seems certain to widen, as key donors cut their contributions and humanitarian disasters grow more frequent and severe.
Where do little children come from?’ This is an embarrassing question,” admitted Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Best, he thought, was to hope your kid doesn’t ask it. But if the question does come up, Rousseau advised in 1762, answer it “with the greatest plainness, without mystery or confusion.”
Discussions about the fate of Africa have long had a cyclical quality. That is especially the case when it comes to the question of how to explain the region’s persistent underdevelopment. At times, the dominant view has stressed the importance of centuries of exploitation by outsiders, from the distant past all the way to the present.
Americans have been arguing about the role of religion in government since the earliest days of the republic. In 1789, soon after taking office, President George Washington declared a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.”
In 2008, the actress and activist Mia Farrow approached the private security company Blackwater and some human rights organizations with a proposition: Might it be possible to hire private military contractors to end the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan?
Crises are an inevitable outgrowth of the modern capitalist economy. So argues Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for the Financial Times, in his authoritative account of the 2008 financial crisis. Instability reveals itself in the form of shocks; even a seemingly small deviation from the norm can set off a major crisis.
Authors: Robert Matthews, Daniel L. Johnson, and Gretchen West
Better safe than sorry. Gretchen West (“Drone On,” May/ June 2015) argues that the growing U.S. drone industry “faces a major regulatory obstacle” in the form of the Federal Aviation Administration. She’s right that the agency needs to make some basic decisions about how to regulate drones—and soon, lest the United States surrender its technological edge.
Since the start of its post-Mao reforms in the late 1970s, the communist regime in China has repeatedly defied predictions of its impending demise. The key to its success lies in what one might call “authoritarian adaptation”—the use of policy reforms to substitute for fundamental institutional change.
It is clear by now that China’s economy is set to slow in the years to come, although economists disagree about how much and for how long. Last year, the country’s GDP growth rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest in almost a quarter century, and many expect that figure to drop further in 2015. Plenty of countries struggle to grow at even this pace, but most don’t have to create hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade, as China will.
In September 2008, when Chinese President Hu Jintao got word that Lehman Brothers, then the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, was on the verge of bankruptcy, he was traveling by van along the bumpy roads of Shaanxi Province. Surrounded by policy advisers and members of the Politburo, Hu asked them how China should respond to the inevitable spillover.
At a conference on the Chinese economy in 2012, Cai Fang, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, issued a dire warning: “There’s now no doubt China will be old before it is rich.” He was expressing a view widely held by economists and China watchers. Over the past 65 years, life expectancy in China has more than doubled, from 35 years to roughly 75, as the fertility rate has plunged. Many fear that if these trends continue, China’s population will age faster than the country can accommodate.
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today. To avoid catastrophe, we must dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of our modern energy systems, which have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries.
In this special edition, CFR.org Editor Robert McMahon, CFR's Director of Studies Jim Lindsay and Senior Fellow for Defense PolicyJanine Davidson start off the summer with a list of books that they will be reading in the weeks ahead. Listen in for recommendations from their reading lists.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »