At a glance.
- Cultural overreach.
- Crisis of expertise, IMF edition.
- It's not true, but is it art?
Overreach, and its cultural manifestations.
That Beijing has grown increasingly assertive in throwing economic, persuasive, and military weight around is a truism, but an essay in Foreign Affairs detects signs of overreach. It cites a backlash of unfavorable opinion, and that opinion has found policy expression is such measures as the Quad alliance among Japan, India, the US and Australia, in the European Union's declaration that China is a "systemic rival," and in the nuclear cooperation agreement recently concluded among the UK, Australia, and the US. But in this case, unlike previous periods of adverse international opinion, Beijing is not trimming its sails in a more accommodative direction, but seems to be doubling down.
One sign of the cultural weight being thrown around, a Foreign Policy essay argues, is the latest James Bond flick. The Bond franchise has tended to track, more or less, and always in an over-the-top way, the current geopolitical state of the world. Thus during the Cold War the villains or those in cahoots with them tended to be Soviets. (That tendency became more pronounced as the Cold War approached its endgame: neither Doctor No nor Goldfinger seemed to have any ideological agenda or national allegiance, but by the time Roger Moore and, especially, Pierce Brosnan were playing Bond, the villains tended to be Russians out of central casting. And the CIA's Felix Leiter was always a reliable Cousin.) As the Global War on Terrorism geared up, the bad guys were terrorists. But now? Any signs of what Foreign Policy calls the Second Cold War between China and the West? Nope. And there's a reason for that: the Chinese market is too big, and too susceptible to government veto, for Hollywood to run the risk of offending the CCP.
The need for reliable data.
World Politics Review sees a threat to the information necessary to sound decisions and, inter alia, to countering mis- and disinformation: the temptation international institutions face to cook the books in the service of one political bias or another. The Review's case in point is a controversy at the International Monetary Fund, whose current managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, has been accused of stands accused of pressuring World Bank staffers (she has some influence there by virtue of her position at the IMF and by her previous work at the Bank) to goose China's position in annual rankings of countries' business climate in the World Bank's annual Doing Business Report. The World Bank has suspended publication of the report, and the incident, whether a genuine concern or the "hatchet job" Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has called it, is causing concern at both institutions. Whatever comes of the controversy, it's unlikely to be good, in the short term, for the ongoing erosion of respect for expertise.
Faking photographs can be art (but it can also support fake news, even as it illustrates the process of faking news).
WIRED has an interesting and complicated account of how documentarian Jonas Bendiksen compiled The Book of Veles, a photographic journey, apparently, through the North Macedonian town of Veles. Veles gained notoriety in 2016 as the home of disinformation artists who'd been hired to influence the US elections. But the book isn't what it appears to be. Bendiksen generated many of the images with models and technologies used in computer games and elsewhere. He also generated some of the criticism he himself received over Twitter. Art's vexed relationship with the truth contnues.