Interview – Ties Dams


Ties Dams is a Analysis Fellow on the Clingendael Institute, the Netherlands’ main impartial assume tank. While specializing in Chinese language geopolitical technique, he holds in-depth experience on each nice energy discursive or narrative technique in addition to geopolitical threat and monetary markets with particular consideration positioned upon China’s significance to European buyers. Along with his analysis work at Clingendael, he has printed a bestselling e book on the life and rule of president Xi Jinping titled De Nieuwe Keizer, ceaselessly seems on radio and tv as a geopolitical skilled, and teaches a masterclass on the College of Amsterdam on geopolitical technique. His experience in China has grown over the course of his research in political idea within the Netherlands, the UK and China.A collection of publications embody China and Liberal Values in International Relations: Opposing the Promotion of Democracy, Human Rights and Liberal Market EconomyChina’s Soft Power in Europe Falling on Hard Times and Will the European hero please stand up? An essay on European global narrative strategy.

The place do you see essentially the most thrilling analysis and debates taking place in your subject?

What’s thrilling to me is that the geopolitical context of European worldwide political thought is rapidly altering, turning what appeared to be trusted maxims of IR and associated fields equivalent to macroeconomics on their heads. Two geopolitical developments stand out in my very own analysis: first, the ascent of the primary non-Western superpower, China, and second, the re-emergence of a European geopolitical consciousness. What does it imply to be Europe in a world that’s now not dominated by European, and even Anglo-Saxon, concepts of energy?

How has the best way you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted essentially the most vital shifts in your considering?

I feel being in Asia for longer intervals of time guided me by means of a technique of escaping the provinciality of Dutch intellectual-political life. I feel, for some time, this led me to fall into one other lure: particularly, being barely obsessive about turning the ‘otherness’ of Asian societies into critiques of Western society. The second huge intellectually formative occasion for me was merely returning to Holland, serving within the Dutch authorities, making a house, and beginning a household. It taught me that whereas it’s essential to all the time have a look at one’s personal standpoint on the world as whether it is certainly one of an ‘outsider’, and vice versa, an individual can’t assist being rooted in some level in area and time. There isn’t any escaping a particularist perspective when worldwide relations. That doesn’t need to be a nasty factor, but it surely does indicate letting go of universalist pretensions in addition to purely deconstructive self-criticism.

In your latest work on geopolitical narratives, you write in regards to the power of China’s story and Europe’s lack of efficient response. How can an efficient narrative profit world powers of their political goals?

The principle premise of the argument, not typically taken significantly sufficient by IR students I imagine, is that human beings, societies and consequently states are narrative beings; we want a priori frameworks of that means to get all over the world, and people frameworks typically have a story construction. Merely stated, we perceive and cope with issues and one another by means of tales, typically with out understanding that’s what we do. If one accepts that premise, it follows logically that in making an attempt to affect others, or exercising energy, states try to form the storylines by means of which we perceive the world. International locations like Russia and China and the US accomplish that fairly consciously, strategically and in some circumstances even successfully. European powers train narrative energy too, however not strategically.

To what extent does disinformation play a component in establishing and sustaining state narratives?

Disinformation is a horrible phrase as a result of it implies the purpose of it’s to disrupt the data area, whereas the champions of disinformation know fairly properly that info by itself is nugatory; it’s the narrative wherein the data is wrapped up, or certainly the narrative the disinformation is aimed toward disrupting, that basically issues. China and Russia know this: the purpose of spreading Covid-quatsch will not be primarily the chaos and grief it causes, however the lack of belief in Western establishments and the tales it inflames.

How have latest crises affected the European psyche by way of the union’s personal self-image and assist from residents? Will this be an impediment to the formation of an efficient “European Means of Life” narrative?

I feel there are no less than two conflicting developments in Europe’s self-image. On the one hand, narratives of decay, division and decadence have gained momentum. Alternatively, particularly amongst younger Europeans, there’s a rising consciousness of the necessity for Europe as a supplier of safety and geopolitical unity. The ‘European Means of Life’ narrative tries to play into each. It must confront the parable of decay with a story of aspiration, explaining what the European Means of Life will obtain in years to return; and it might want to explicate what it needs to guard from geopolitical strife and what the prices of safety might be. 

How has China’s narrative affected its geopolitical goals, significantly within the European neighbourhood, and the way can the EU compete?

I feel China has efficiently carved out a story area for alternate options to Western modernity, generally to the detriment of Europe’s tender energy, however on the very least to relative features in legitimacy of China’s mannequin of improvement. Particularly in several components of Africa, it has succeeded in projecting a robust, optimistic picture. China trains hundreds of African journalists yearly, has opened dozens of Confucius Institutes, and invests deeply in diplomatic ties on all ranges – from continent to township. The European neighbourhood is way extra conflicted. Europe might want to relearn the facility of narrative. It might want to clarify in an in depth and fascinating method why sharing the European lifestyle tackles the grievances and lifts the aspiration of particular regional audiences. It might want to try this internationally, however the European neighbourhood must have precedence. The EU’s Excessive Consultant for International Affairs and Safety Coverage, Josep Borrell, saying that the European neighbourhood is engulfed in flames doesn’t assist: Europe might want to mission a sportive story for widespread improvement.  

How enmeshed is the European stance on China with the USA’s goals, and can the Biden administration take the lead?

Biden’s stance on China is extra problematic to European pursuits than Trump’s was as a result of European leaders have a far more durable time saying no to Biden than they needed to Trump. By encapsulating the China problem in a Manichaean narrative – a world of excellent and evil, of democracies versus autocracies, just one can survive – Biden is cunningly enjoying into the European self-image. Ask a European, will you combat a warfare to save lots of Taipei? The reply might be ‘no’. Ask a European to combat to save lots of democracy, properly, the talk adjustments.  The large query now’s, in fact, will Biden be capable of give attention to China or will his administration’s international coverage, too, get caught within the pandora’s field Bush opened in Afghanistan?

What’s crucial recommendation you would give to younger students of Worldwide Relations?

Truthfully, most recommendation is as well-intentioned as it’s ineffective, often saying extra in regards to the particular person giving recommendation than about you. Don’t get misplaced within the educational actuality of IR – it’s actually not that fascinating to spend a profession making an attempt so as to add a footnote to debates between, say, constructivists and post-structuralists. IR theorists are usually unhealthy at idea, so I’d say, higher go to a considerably ecumenical philosophy or historical past division and also you’ll have a much better time. Additionally, journey tons, learn broadly, all the time elevate your hand to ask a query and by no means hesitate to do the factor that you just secretly actually need to do. It’s a lot simpler to excel on the factor you’re truly obsessive about however looks like a mission not possible than pretending to love doing what you assume you’ll get plenty of credit score for. Additionally, don’t be afraid to get your actual life going: I see many individuals ready with getting their grownup life began till they get their PhD, or post-doc, or tenure, or regardless of the subsequent factor is, and it simply doesn’t work. You’ll write much better essays and books when your life is rooted within the splendidly boring routines of a relationship, a household, or a pet.

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