What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

Updated 10 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Eurovision! by Chris West

  • Eurovision started in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 people in Switzerland
  • Today the contest is watched by an audience of billions

For those who think the Eurovision Song Contest is just an evening of questionable tunes, dubious dancing and general over-the-top cheesiness, think again.

From its beginnings in 1956 with just seven competitors performing before 200 polite, but not terribly enthusiastic, people in Switzerland, the contest has been a mirror for cultural, social and political developments in Europe.

For the countries once imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, it has been a voice of rebellion.

For regional minorities it has been a voice of liberation. It even triggered a national revolution.

And the notorious bloc voting by regional neighbors is so blatant that nobody is surprised any more.

Nowadays the contest is watched by an audience of billions. People throw Eurovision-themed parties.

The singers have not always come from the country they represent. Canadian Celine Dion competed for Switzerland in 1988, while Greek singer Nana Mouskouri sang for Luxembourg in 1963.

Even the “Euro” element of the contest is now very loosely interpreted, with Israel and Australia competing.

Eurovision! charts both the history of Europe and the history of the song contest over the past six decades and shows how seamlessly they interlink. Something to ponder while watching this Saturday’s cheese-fest from Lisbon.


What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

Updated 25 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

  • Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms

While work in international relations has closely examined the decline of great powers, not much attention has been paid to the question of their rise. The upward trajectory of China is a particularly puzzling case. How has it grown increasingly important in the world arena while lagging behind the US and its allies across certain sectors? 

Borrowing ideas of political determinism from ancient Chinese philosophers, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers explains China’s expanding influence by presenting a moral-realist theory that attributes the rise and fall of nations to political leadership. Yan Xuetong shows that the stronger a rising state’s political leadership, the more likely it is to displace a prevailing state in the international system. 

Yan defines political leadership through the lens of morality, specifically the ability of a government to fulfill its domestic responsibility and maintain international strategic credibility. Examining leadership at the personal, national, and international levels. 

Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms. Yan also considers the reasons for America’s diminishing international stature even as its economy, education system, military, political institutions, and technology hold steady. The polarization of China and the US will not result in another Cold War scenario, but their mutual distrust will ultimately drive the world center from Europe to East Asia.