Wednesday, December 06, 2017


A decade ago, I read an article entitled ”When Will the Chinese People Be Free?”. In it, the American academic Henry S. Rowen argued that growing economic prosperity would automagically make China “Partly Free” by 2015 and “Free” by 2025 (using the labels from Freedom House). What difference ten short years can make...

When working in China, I often got the question how I could “support” such a regime by living there. While I understand where that question is coming from, my answer has always been that more engagement is better than less. As long as one avoided certain delicate topics such as Tibet or the Falun Gong movement, I was in fact surprised by how open both the Chinese students and the other faculty members were about the dysfunctionality of authoritarianism.

Now as I find myself writing about Russia, similar questions have returned. However, far from discouraging me, they have made me even more convinced about the need for new positive narratives about Russia’s role in the world. Otherwise, just like at a preschool, if one kid is seen as a troublemaker, that may quickly become the only role that kid knows how to play.

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