31 episodes

International lawyer Robert Amsterdam and other members from the Amsterdam & Partners LLP team host a wide range of special expert guests to discuss leading international political and business issues.

Departures with Robert Amsterdam Amsterdam & Partners LLP

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    • 5.0, 19 Ratings

International lawyer Robert Amsterdam and other members from the Amsterdam & Partners LLP team host a wide range of special expert guests to discuss leading international political and business issues.

    The Jewish dynasties that built modern China

    The Jewish dynasties that built modern China

    For 175 years, well before the young Mao Zedong began his Long March, two rival Jewish dynasties dominated Chinese business and politics, accumulating massive wealth and power while navigating the tumultuous history of the period before losing nearly everything once the Communists swept into power.
    Jonathan Kaufman, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of the "The Last Kings of Shanghai," joins Robert Amsterdam on the podcast to discuss the fascinating stories of these two families, the Sassoons and the Kadoories, and how their tremendous impact on China can still be felt and observed today.
    "When you go to Shanghai, you can see how Shanghai was the New York or London of its time. Charlie Chaplin would go there. Noel Coward would go there. It was a crossroads for business, it was really the first globalized city. So a lot of the issues we deal with today with globalization including poverty and inequity, but also the breaking down of borders, Shanghai represented," Kaufman says.
    Kaufman points out these complexities aren't always recognized in Chinese history during our current moment of inward-looking nationalism, and that we sometimes forget that there is another history of a country that championed economic dynamism, that led with openness, and had great success in working with the West.

    • 31 min
    The obstacles to Africa's prosperity

    The obstacles to Africa's prosperity

    For many years, Africa's natural resource wealth, young population, and vibrant societies have raised many hopes for a rapid emergence on the world's stage - but the development of these opportunities has often slow and uneven. So what is holding the region back?
    John Campbell, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of multiple books on the region, joins Departures this week to discuss a wide range of trends he sees taking precedence, from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa.
    Looking at the relatively disappointing results of President Muhummudu Buhari in Nigeria, Ambassador Campbell points to the country's unfortunate history. "Nigerians like to say that the present government is a colonial government. The only difference is that instead of being run by the British, it is run by a homegrown elite," Ambassador Campbell says.
    Speaking about how the African public views the recent protest movements over racial inequality in the United States, Ambassador Campbell says it depends which audience you are talking about.
    "African elites by and large, don't like demonstrations. The kind of demonstrations that have taken place in Washington and other American cities, if that were to happen in Africa, they would turn against the government very fast," he says. But others feel encouraged that mass movements can be for good causes that they clearly understand. As one Nigerian said to him, "Well, 'black lives matter' in the United States, but in much of Africa, no lives matter."
    Lastly, when speaking about the ongoing rot of authoritarianism in Africa with regimes like Museveni in Uganda and Biya in Cameroon, Ambassador Campbell warns against the US overemphasizing "stability."
    "We've made this kind of mistake before and it always ends up to be extremely costly. Whenever we violate our ideals, we end up paying a heavy price for it," he says.

    • 40 min
    A world without "The West"

    A world without "The West"

    So much of the peace and prosperity achieved following the end of World War II and past the end of the Cold War was rooted in a common civilizational grammar driving foreign policy, an imagined community of nations referred to as "The West" based on a set of Enlightenment ideas. But then we lost confidence in that cultural narrative, and gradually many in the United States abandoned the Jeffersonian West of liberty, multilateralism and rule of law in favor of an ethno-religious-nationalist line of thinking.
    That's the argument that we discuss with Prof. Michael Kimmage, PhD, a former diplomat and professor of history at Catholic University who has written a fascinating new book, The Abandonment of the West.
    During the interview, Amsterdam and Kimmage discuss why Donald Trump may be the first non-Western president of the United States, how a lack of diversity and participation in foreign affairs leadership by African Americans has weakened the notion of the West, and how we can reconfigure the conception of the West in ways which can override the polarization dividing the country today.

    • 27 min
    Russian kleptocracy as a business model

    Russian kleptocracy as a business model

    There are few other countries in the world that have wielded money and influence as well as the modern Russian state, to the point of purchasing impunity and acquiescence to their status quo. And this is not all simply because of a "master strategy" by Vladimir Putin, but instead a vast and complex system of illicit enrichment and state capture by his network of siloviki and willing oligarch businessmen.
    It is this network and its operative methods that is the focus of a fascinating new book by former Financial Times journalist Catherine Belton.
    Belton joins with Robert Amsterdam on the Departures to talk about the conclusions and findings of her book, while also reminiscing about what's changed since the two of them shared many long days on the court benches of Moscow's Meshchansky Court during the first trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

    • 29 min
    The future is not a right, but a commodity

    The future is not a right, but a commodity

    For experts who spend their careers studying modern authoritarianism, it has only recently become prudent to apply their analytical skillset to talking about political developments in the United States.
    Journalist and author Sarah Kendzior, who stood out in 2015 as one of the lone voices warning that Donald Trump was going to win the presidency, speaks with Robert Amsterdam about her latest book, "Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America."
    "It's always encouraging when you see masses of people rise up, especially when they're doing so on behalf of another," said Kenzior of the recent protests for black lives. In her view, the pandemic and the allyship on display are intimately connected: the Trump administration's failure to respond to the coronavirus "told white America once and for all: you, too, are disposable."
    But she also sees a strong case for a call to action: "When I talk to my children, I try to teach it to them in terms of history, both so that they know the roots of the crisis, but also that they understand the way that people have pushed back against past injustices, and sometimes won. (...) That it's not easy, that it's not this arc of justice bending naturally toward triumph. It's the result of people's will to fight oppressive forces, and that's what we have to do now."

    • 28 min
    China's long road to democracy

    China's long road to democracy

    Earlier this month marked the 31st anniversary of Tiannanmen Square, while during this same period, the same Chinese Communist Party solidified its grip on Hong Kong with the passage of a new national security law that would subject Hong Kongers to extradition and Chinese legal jurisdiction.
    These events are just examples of the extreme lengths Beijing will go to demonstrate its commitment to avoiding a collapse similar to that of the Soviet Union, argues Jean-Pierre Cabestan during his interview on Departures with Robert Amsterdam.
    Cabestan is the author of the book "China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship," and discusses with Amsterdam his theory that although the one-party authoritarian state has a long life line left, eventually as prosperity grows the pressures will increase for more representative forms of government that may ultimately become unsustainable for the regime. But this is unlikely to happen for decades, says Cabestan, as we are observing a highly adaptive regime absorb crisis, pivot, and change strategies in whatever form or function may support their goal of stability and growth at the expense of liberties and democracy.

    • 42 min

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