The political progress in Taiwan and Hong Kong is good news. Ever since Taiwan began its transition to democracy in the late 1980s, optimists have hoped that its opening would serve as a shining beacon for the mainland. But only democratization within China can transform the country.
The Bush administration is preparing to launch a "Greater Middle East Initiative" at the G-8 summit meeting in June. The time is indeed opportune for engagement on regional reform, but as planned, the initiative fails to establish a basis for genuine partnership and does little to address the real challenges of Arab democratization.
U.S. and European leaders want to see greater freedom, and democracy in the Middle East. Americans see this as the crucial battleground in the war on terror; Europeans want their southern neighbors to be stable and well-governed, to stem the flows of illegal migration and organized crime. Working with local partners for peaceful democratic regime change is the best way to achieve these goals.
American nationalism today imperils America's global leadership and its success in the war against terrorism. More than any other factor, it is this nationalism which divides the US from a post-nationalist Europe. And insofar as it has become mixed up with a chauvinist strain of Israeli nationalism, it also plays a disastrous role in US relations with the Muslim world.
There has been a good deal of talk in the US about a parallel between President George W. Bush's "plan" for democratising the greater Middle East and the Helsinki process that contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire. When thinking about western policy and the Muslim world, it does indeed make sense to look for lessons from the cold war - but this is not the right one.