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.
How China's foreign policy is shaped
Since Xi Jingping rose to power in 2012, China has embarked on a new phase of expanding their role as a global superpower. Gone are the days of the charm offensive and the peaceful rise, here come the 'wolf warriors.' Xi's "Chinese Dream" has been pitched by state propaganda as a visionary plan for a "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" leading up to the year 2049, but now it seems they are entering a phase where the internal threats significantly outweigh the external challenges to realizing this dream.
Prof. Jing Sun of the University of Denver, who formerly worked as a correspondent for Chinese state media, joins Departures with Robert Amsterdam this week to discuss his fascinating new book, "Red Chamber, World Dream: Actors, Audience, and Agendas in Chinese Foreign Policy and Beyond."
Sun argues that the development and implementation of major Chinese foreign policy decisions are hardly unilateral dictates from the party leadership. Instead, there are a multitude of actors and sources of pressure from society playing out in intraparty fighting, inter-ministerial feuding, social media, TV dramas and movies, among others. Understanding how these forces work and interact can do much to advance our understanding of how China reaches its foreign policy outcomes - decisions which of course have major impacts on the global system writ large.
The innovation and resilience of the Mongol Empire
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongol horde exercised control over an unfathomably large empire, spanning thousands of miles from Europe to Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. History has often not looked kindly upon these nomadic civilizations, which has led to some major blindspots regarding astonishing achievements, explosive growth in trade, commerce, and communications, and even a certain level of resilience and tolerance of governing very different and often opposing groups.
Prof. Marie Favereau joins the Departures with Robert Amsterdam podcast this week to discuss her fascinating new book, "The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World." As Favereau argues in her book, the Mongol empire had its own unique political regime, including a complex power-sharing arrangement among the khan and the nobility which rewarded the best administrators and diplomats and fostered an economic order that was mobile, organized, and innovative. The success of this empire provided a early governance model for Russia, influenced social practice and state structure across Islamic cultures, and disseminated a sophisticated knowledge of nature across vast territories.
This enjoyable conversation with Favereau will make you rethink past assumptions about the Mongol empire, and better understand how it influenced the world which followed.
Who 'belongs' in a nation, and who is allowed to wield state power?
This week we are beyond thrilled to have Mahmood Mamdani on the podcast, one of the world's most highly regarded public intellectuals, author of dozens of books, and a decorated professor at Columbia University. Dr. Mamdani has had diverse life experience, from marching on Birmingham for civil rights to being chased from Kampala by the Idi Amin regime to fighting apartheid in South Africa, and in his new book, "Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities," he explores the decolonization of justice and the separation between national identity and culture and state power.
A veteran intelligence agent shares his perspective on Russia
As competition in the field of cyberwarfare heats up between Russia and the United States, there are few other experts with more experience working inside the Central Intelligence Agency than Jack Devine.
For 32 years Devine worked as a US spymaster, serving as Acting Director and Associate Director of CIA’s operations outside the United States from 1993-1995, where he had supervisory authority over thousands of CIA employees involved in sensitive missions throughout the world. In addition, he served as Chief of the Latin American Division from 1992-1993 and was the principal manager of the CIA’s sensitive projects in Latin America.
Devine's new book, "Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression," explores a number of major espionage incidents which have taken place between the two nations since the end of World War II, and what lessons can be drawn to prepare for the next phase of competition in the clandestine services.
The inside anecdotes alone make this book an exciting read, and Devine presents his highly unique perspective with detail and fascinating historical context from his own personal involvement in the service.
Why we are losing the cyber-weapons arms race
When a government wants to break into someone's iPhone or Android device, there's a marketplace where that kind of vulnerability hacking service is bought and sold - costing sometimes as much as $2.5 million.
The very fact that such a marketplace exists for cyberwarfare is an illustration of the rapidly growing field of threats we face, and also a sign of how dramatically unprepared we are to defend against these attacks. From the SolarWinds hack in 2020 which was one of the largest breaches of sensitive government data to the more recent attacks on small municipal water plants, utilities, and pipelines, there is an expanding intensity of the sophistication of cyber weapons and the United States is rapidly falling way behind the curve.
Nicole Perlroth, the award-winning New York Times journalist, joins the podcast to discuss her excellent book, "This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race," a stunning work of investigative journalism spanning seven years of detailed research and interviews.
According to Perlroth, the United States has an extremely soft underbelly of connected infrastructure which has profound exposures and no system of defense. Meanwhile, Russia is conducting targeted testing of its cyberwarfare tools all over the world, preparing for a future event. The NSA can perfect its offensive cyber-weaponry all it wants, she says, but currently there is still very little planning to prepare for the coming war.
Whether or not the United States will respond in time to these threats and develop defenses is going to have a major impact on our future security.
The adventurous lives of Imperial Russian spies
Imagine you are trapped in a far-flung foreign compound with 10 other people, none of them want to be there, but you have a seemingly limitless supply of alcohol. Oh, and you are charged with developing critical intelligence and knowledge for Imperial Russia's ambitions to gain global power.
That's among the many fascinating stories in Gregory Afinogenov's new book, "Spies and Scholars: Chinese Secrets and Imperial Russia’s Quest for World Power," which explores how knowledge about Asia was developed from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
What's interesting about this unique period of history that Afinogenov writes about is how espionage was used as a means of generating knowledge for public intellectuals, helping Imperial Russia to compete with rival Britain, to advance a deeper knowledge of the East - but this information, filtered and passed through Moscow, rarely met its goal and often did not get distributed inside Russia itself, shaping future relations with China in various ways.
Afinogenov argues that we should take a critical look at the assumptions that connect knowledge regimes with imperial power, and how this neglected intellectual history offers insight and value to historians.