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The Year in Review

Our Top 5 Debunkers of 2019

Russian expansionism is overhyped and Huawei isn’t the untouchable behemoth we think it is. Here are our top Debunkers of 2019.

Joan Wong illustrations for Foreign Policy/Getty Images

Foreign Policy’s Debunkers challenge conventional wisdom on politics, world affairs, and culture. These essays take established political and media narratives and flip them on their head. Here are five of our favorite debunkers published in 2019—and they are just as relevant today as they were when they first published.

1. You Only Wish You Had Ukraine’s Democracy

by Paul Hockenos, Feb. 10

Although the impeachment drama in the United States confirms that corruption in Ukraine continues to run deep, Kyiv has in fact made steady progress towards democratization since the seeming failure of the 2014 Maidan Revolution, writes Paul Hockenos. Parliament has created independent institutions to combat corruption, and has made serious efforts to reform healthcare, environmental regulations, and tax law.

2. Don’t Believe the Hype. Russia Is Losing in the Middle East—and Around the World

by Rajan Menon, Nov. 18

The annexation of Crimea, interventions in Libya and Syria, and an expanding footprint in Latin America all seem to confirm that Russia has reclaimed its place among the world’s great powers. Don’t believe the hype. Rajan Menon explains why Moscows gains are limited, and why it is doubtful it will ever have the capabilities to match the world’s great powers on the world stage.

3. Why Huawei Isn’t So Scary

by Elsa B. Kania and Lindsey R. Sheppard

Huawei has become the bogeyman of the West. Fears over its tentacles reaching into every 5G device in the West are commonplace. But Huawei’s lead is not as great as it might seem, write Elsa B. Kania and Lindsey R. Sheppard—and it certainly isn’t insurmountable. The 5G industry is still trying to find its footing, and that means competitors have ample opportunity to outdo it.

4. The Small War That Wasn’t

by Cameron Abadi, Jan. 2

The prevailing consensus in the United States is that the 1999 war in Kosovo is a mere historical footnote. Cameron Abadi explains why that view should be corrected. NATO’s intervention lasted only 3 months, but its successful defense of the Albanian Kosovar community against Serbian aggression set the blueprint for later humanitarian interventions, especially U.S. missions in Libya and Syria. The Kosovo war gets little attention today—despite its 20th anniversary this year—but it did much to set the foundation for the current nature of international politics.

5. China’s Overrated Technocrats

by James Palmer, July 4

There is a notion that China is governed by an elite class of engineers and scientists. And proponents of this idea believe that a more technocratic approach to governing fundamentally shapes the way leaders design solutions to problems. But the extent to which Chinese leaders have adopted this leadership style is overblown, writes James Palmer. Most of the engineers and scientists that once dominated the upper echelons of the Communist Party are gone, and the present leadership’s style is informed more by its need to consolidate control and survive internal power struggles.

Dan Haverty is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @dan_haverty

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