17 January 2017, Davos, Switzerland – ABC News – The 2017 gathering of the world’s financial elite in Davos foreshadowed a rather bleak future. The forum acknowledged the growing problem of social inequality around the world, with little substantive know-how on finding solutions to this crisis. Various political leaders from China’s Xi Jinping to Britain’s Theresa May staked out their respective national positions, which they hope will have global impact.
For China, it was about championing globalisation at a time when US President-elect Donald Trump, soon to be custodian of the world’s largest economy, seems to be championing protectionism, abandoning global free trade and putting the American national interest first.
For Theresa May, her priority is to push the ‘Global Britain’ model – her panacea to Brexit – giving the UK a future beyond the EU.
One of the biggest challenges at Davos was the increasing isolationism in states harbouring significant right wing, anti-free trade movements.
It seems that at the very least, optimism for the continued survival of big ‘G’ highly integrated globalisation may well be substituted for a less coherent small ‘g’ variant, as the middle classes in the developed world diminish in both size and political importance – pressured out of employment by the off-shoring of work, stagnant wages and salaries, and increasing automation unleashed and supported by the neo-liberal economic order.
17 January 2017, Washington D.C., United States – thedailybeast.com – Commentator Gordon G. Chang ruminated over comments made by Trump nominee for US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson last Friday (13 January) on potentially blockading the Chinese from accessing their man-made military outposts in the South China Sea.
Tillerson used particularly strong language, leading to international speculation that a Trump administration’s first priority would be to kerb, if not roll back, Chinese power.
While some observers in both China and the US believe this was Trump’s opening gambit to strike a deal for an eventual strategic accommodation between Beijing and Washington in the Pacific, others are not so sure.
China’s response: any American move to prevent Chinese access to its outposts in the South China Sea will be forcefully resisted.
While there is every reason to believe that a shooting war would not be in the interest of either party, the international environment no longer appears able to tolerate diplomatic flexibility as national positions around the world are hardening. And in this environment, the likelihood of interstate conflict cannot be cavalierly dismissed.
18 January 2017, Damascus, Syria – euronews – Russian Federation warplanes joined forces with Turkish jets to hammer ISIL positions around the northern Syrian town of al-Bab.
This is the first time Russian and Turkish militaries coordinated such an air strike and heralds a rapid maturing of relations between international ‘strong-men’ and former foes, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This ‘special relationship’ is crucial for a general peace settlement to the six-year-old Syrian civil war.
For the Turkish government, disillusioned by the European Union and disenchanted with the United States, the country’s outreach to Russia over Syria allows it to control events in the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria and prevent this area from becoming a national security threat that could increase separatist sentiment among Turkey’s own significant and restive Kurdish minority.
20 January 2017, Melbourne, Australia – The Guardian – In an ‘attack’, in many ways similar to those conducted in July 2016 in Nice (France) and December 2016 in Berlin (Germany), a car, driven by a 26-year-old man of Greek descent from the South Australian opal mining town of Coober Pedy, drove into a crowd in Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne. The car hit scores of people, killing 4 and injuring 30.
Initial police investigations have so far determined that there was no evidence that this man was connected to any terrorist organisation or harboured any pro-Islamic extremist views.
What this tragic incident has proven is that many open urban public spaces in major Australian cities such as Melbourne are vulnerable to vehicular attack. No doubt jihadist sympathisers among Australia’s Muslim community would have observed the impact of this assault and copycat style attacks can no longer be ruled out.