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2021’s Best Long-Form Foreign-Policy Reads

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in a Foreign PolicyWe work hard to keep you up to date with the news, but we also like to feature great long writing that delves into an issue, uncovers the background behind a complex topic, or tells a compelling and powerful story.

Here are five of our best long-running reads from 2021.


1. China is a declining power – and that’s the problem

By Hal Brands and Michael Beckley, September 24

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in a Foreign PolicyWe work hard to keep you up to date with the news, but we also like to feature great long writing that delves into an issue, uncovers the background behind a complex topic, or tells a compelling and powerful story.

Here are five of our best long-running reads from 2021.


1. China is a declining power – and that’s the problem

By Hal Brands and Michael Beckley, September 24

In 2021, some serious cracks are emerging in the narrative of China’s missile rise and increasing dominance. Beijing has had to contend with an economic slowdown, suppress its tech industry, and faced a global backlash against its aggressive diplomacy. But if China is weaker than it looks, it has to hold back for the rest of the world, argue Hal Brands and Michael Beckley. History contains many examples of other forces that seemed powerful but fearful of impending decline, they wrote, sending them off into despondency – think Germany in 1914 and the Empire of Japan in 1941. Precedents illuminate – and point to some dangerous years ahead.


2. Washington Works on Interns

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By Robbie Grammer and Anna Weber, December 16

“It is an open secret that Washington’s foreign policy machine works effectively with interns,” wrote Robbie Grammer and Anna Webber of Foreign Policy. Unpaid (or underpaid), they work in the front offices, manage administrative tasks, run websites, organize events, and write hidden policy reports. Government, think tanks, and other institutions that rely on apprentices for work may speak of inclusion with a glimpse of inclusion, but the system is particularly harsh on minorities and members of the working class who, unlike their peers from wealthy families, cannot work for free. Gramer and Weber dug deep to get the dirt on this infamous system.


3. The Fallen Man of Kabul

Posted by Laila Rasikh August 28

Some of the most powerful images taken in 2021 that are heartbreaking since the fall of Kabul have reached us. Thousands of Afghans, fearing for their lives as the Taliban entered the capital, struggled to get places on the last flights out of the city. The most indelible of these images showed a person falling from a plane high in the sky – a young man clinging to the fuselage in a desperate bid to get wherever the plane is headed. Laila Rasekh investigated the matter and told us the tragic story of the fall of the Kabul man.


4. China uses the Tibetans as imperial agents in the Himalayas

By Robert Barnett, July 28




A Tibetan shepherd and Yak on July 4, 2020, as part of a composite satellite illustration of the Tibetan-Bhutanese border region.Clarifying foreign policy / Tibet Satellite TV +

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Part of an ongoing collaboration with Tibetans and other researchers in Chinese online research, Robert Barnett’s report describes, for the first time, Beijing’s secret creation of an extensive network of paramilitary settlements along the Himalayan frontier, including in neighboring Bhutan, as revealing the earlier part in this Series. In an effort to be reminiscent of its tactics in the South China Sea, Beijing was asserting its territorial claims in the Himalayas by colonizing remote parts of a weaker neighboring country.


5. The Pedynomics Revolution

By Michael Hirsch, June 9

Some of his legislation may falter on Capitol Hill, but US President Joe Biden’s economic plans are nothing if not ambitious: massive infrastructure spending and clean energy, subsidies and trade rules to bring factory jobs back to the United States, and other transformation policies. wealth for the middle class. “If by any means he is able to follow through on this plan, the president will cast into the rubble of history the ruling orthodoxy of the past forty years,” wrote Michael Hirsch of Foreign Policy. Biden’s revolutionary economic doctrine also has a dark side: a first American nationalism that can close borders to trade, reduce global growth, and create tensions abroad.

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