It has been remarked that a century generally does not take shape until its second decade. That was certainly true of the last century, whose tragic destiny was first played out on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Whether the same will hold for this century will be for future historians to decide. There is no doubt, however, that in the first half of 2011 there has been shifting ground. The most dramatic events have been in the Middle East and North Africa. Elsewhere in the world, new forces have been emerging as well. Even in Canada, in our typically restrained way, an election that seemed set to give us a repeat of past parliaments produced what may be a long-term political realignment.
When the government was defeated in the House and the election was called in late March, we decided to adjust our production schedule so that we could take account of the results. We do so with the editorial that follows this introduction and Finn Poschmann's column, while also giving some of the flavour of the campaign through our selection from the listserv. However, we decided to persist with our original intention of devoting this issue primarily to foreign policy. As a twice-yearly journal we cannot keep up with the roiling changes in the Middle East, but we have been able to take an in-depth look at two rising powers: China and South Africa.
Reg Whitaker examines the far-reaching changes in China with an eye toward how they affect China's stance in international affairs. He describes China's growing assertiveness, especially in Asia, and its emergence as an imperial power, but he is sceptical of claims that China and the United States are inevitably on a collision course. Chris Landsberg relates how former President Thabo Mbeki manoeuvred South Africa into a position of significant influence in Africa and elsewhere. The current President, Jacob Zuma, has been less sure-footed in foreign policy, and South Africa may gradually lose its strategic place in world affairs.
We also look at two aspects of Canadian foreign policy. Richard Nimijean describes how efforts to "brand" Canada as a "clean energy superpower" are being undermined because reality--especially the development of the Alberta oil sands--does not match the rhetoric. John Richards accuses the Canadian International Development Agency of a kind of "Canadian angelisme" that prevents grappling with harsh political realities in many "countries of focus" for Canadian aid. The most dramatic...