February 26th, 2013
11:15 AM ET

What we're reading

By Fareed Zakaria

China’s much-discussed cyber activities reflect the country’s weakness, not its strength, suggests Thomas Barnett in TIME.

“China’s leadership can deal with these domestic challenges in the same innovative fashion America once did (having to invent Chinese democracy along the way, mind you), or it can cling to the mistake of single-party rule and the closed thought it represents. The more it succumbs to the latter, the more cyber- thievery we’ll see (along with the more desperate everything). Again, we can mistake this for ‘power’ and ‘confidence’ and ‘aggression,’ but it’s mostly about a nation running on fear.”

A lack of understanding of America’s history of complicity in illicit trade has contributed to it “grossly distorting” the effect, argues Peter Andreas in Foreign Affairs.

“To fight the perceived menace of illegal immigration, the U.S. government doubled the size of its border patrol in the 1990s and then doubled it again during the last decade…Last year, the Obama administration devoted more funds to immigration control – some $18 billion – than it did to all other federal law enforcement activities combined,” Andreas writes.

“There is no doubt that cross-border crime and illicit trade harm individuals and communities and pose challenges to governments, including the United States. But the panicked discourse and frenzied law enforcement policies that define Washington’s current approach are an alarmist overreaction.”

The collapse of China’s “riskiest” property market has some troubling implications for its economy – and the rest of the world, suggests Max Fisher in the Washington Post.

“If the national real estate market collapses in China, it would be disastrous not just for China but for the entire world economy, risking a third wave of the global crisis that began with the U.S. financial collapse and worsened with the Euro crisis. Is Phoenix Island an outlier, a crazy market so extreme that it tells us little about China? Is it the start of a major but recoverable setback? Or, in the worst-case scenario, is it the beginning of the end for China’s astounding 20 years of miraculous economic growth?”

A war against a name is a war in name only, writes Steve Coll in the New Yorker. Is it time to call off the war on al Qaeda?

“A franchise is a business that typically operates under strict rules laid down by a parent corporation; to apply that label to Al Qaeda’s derivative groups today is false. If al Qaeda is not coherent enough to justify a formal state of war, the war should end; if the Administration wishes to argue that some derivative groups justify emergency measures, it should identify that enemy accurately.”

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