Richard N. Haass
This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.
Project Syndicate: The US and China are shaking the fragile foundations of stability in Taiwan, which you warn threatens to do more harm than good. But is instability always bad? Mass protests against a proposed law to allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China have destabilized the city, but they worked, forcing the authorities to withdraw the bill. Of course, the broader question remains: how can Hong Kong’s people defend the “one country, two systems” arrangement without risking a devastating escalation?
Richard Haass: Instability can be good or bad, depending on what you are moving away from, what you are moving toward, and what the process of getting from one to the other entails. Clearly, the people of Hong Kong believe that they are losing their autonomy, and fear further encroachments by mainland China. But protesters’ demands could be more than the mainland is prepared to countenance. This could cause China’s government to respond in a way that leaves the people of Hong Kong with even less freedom and autonomy.
The irony is that many in China’s government see what is happening in Hong Kong as a threat to political stability on the mainland. But it also could be argued that long-term stability on the mainland requires a degree of political reform.
PS: The Trump administration seems convinced that economic carrots and sticks are the only diplomacy the US needs, even though, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea, it is obvious that this approach is not yielding results. When are economic incentives and sanctions most likely to bring about desired changes, and will Trump’s heavy reliance on them have long-term effects on international diplomacy?
RH: History suggests that there are distinct limits to what economic sanctions can accomplish, especially if they do not have broad international support. The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran have certainly hit the Iranian economy hard, but there is no sign yet of any change in behavior, and Iran is actually reneging on its commitments not to enrich uranium beyond agreed limits. There is a longer-term risk that the Trump administration’s frequent use of tariffs and sanctions will accelerate the emergence of alternatives to the US dollar-based international economic system.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Haass's picks:
by Hedley Bull
My favorite book on international relations.
by Richard Neustadt and Ernest May
The best book for would-be policymakers.
by Patrick Radden Keefe
The book I am currently reading – deep local knowledge, and certainly worthy of a recommendation.
From the PS Archive
Last year, Haass warned that America’s decision to abandon the global system that it helped to build, and then to preserve for more than seven decades, will lead to a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful for Americans and others alike. Read his commentary Liberal World Order, R.I.P.
Two years before Donald Trump became US president, Haass cautioned that the reason we recognize the post-Cold War period of American preeminence, increased prosperity, and widespread peace as a distinct era is that it is already over. Read his commentary The Era of Disorder.
Around the web
Haass weighs in on the Trump administration’s ongoing trade negotiations with China and Mexico, and highlights the broader overuse of tariffs and sanctions in American foreign policy. Watch the video here.
In an hour-long interview, Haass considers a wide range of pressing issues, including Iran, Venezuela, Israel, North Korea, and, of course, Trump’s trade war. Listen to the podcast here.
Even the best-managed global order “eventually, inevitably” comes to an end. But acknowledging that, Haass argues, does not make it any easier to predict the timing and manner of its end – or what will come in its wake. Read the full article here.