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Weekly Summaries

31st of May – 6th of June

China’s new 3 child policy

On Monday, the Chinese government announced that it would now allow all married couples to have three children. Previously, couples had only been allowed to have two children. The announcement comes as birth rates in China continued to fall for the fourth consecutive year.

Israeli Politics Update

After four elections in as many years, the coalition between Israel’s opposition parties, which was announced on Wednesday evening, may finally bring some stability to Israeli politics. The coalition is bad news for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and is currently facing trial on charges of corruption. Including eight parties with ideologies ranging from the left to the far right, some analysts praised the breadth of the coalition, while others are saying that the range of ideologies and many differences may mean that the parties are “too incompatible for their compact to last” (the New York Times).

Other News

  • The “state of emergency” in Tokyo, Japan, has been extended until at least the 20th of June, scheduled to be lifted just right before the Tokyo Olympics
  • Taiwan has been facing its worst drought in half a century, draining reservoirs
  • Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete in 2020, withdrew from the French Open last week. Previously, she had already announced that she would not be participating in the usual postmatch news conferences but found herself being fined by tennis officials, who threatened further punishment if she continued to refuse to attend post-match news conferences. Previously, she had already announced that she would not be participating in the usual postmatch news conferences but found herself being fined by tennis officials, who threatened further punishment if she would not attend the upcoming post-match news conferences.
  • This past week, NASA announced that it will launch “two new missions to explore Venus,” according to the New York Times

Fun Fact

Consisting of 15 elephants in total, a herd of elephants has been making its way across China for the past year. They have travelled more than 300 miles, puzzling researchers.

Categories
Weekly Summaries

17th of May – 23rd of May

Israel and Gaza reach a cease-fire

At the beginning of last week, Israel continued to conduct airstrikes on the Gaza Strip while Hamas fired rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Some say that such levels of violence were last seen in 2014. During a phone call with President Netanyahu of Israel, President Biden reportedly expressed “support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas,” according to the New York Times. Furthermore, Egypt has been continuously working with the United Nations, in the hopes of reaching a cease-fire. Foreign ministers of the European Union have also called for an “immediate cease-fire.” A cease-fire appears to now have finally been reached after 11 days of fighting, coming into effect at 2 am local time on Friday. Both sides claimed victory and there were celebrations both in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Other News

  • In “Nowhere Land” on Mars China has successfully been able to land a rover, even releasing the first photos that were shot of Mars this week
  • Around 8,000 people crossed the border from Morocco to Spain, with Spain reacting by troops, military trucks, and helicopters into Ceuta
  • In Indonesia, a lawsuit pursued by citizens aims to force the government to address the pollution in the metropolitan area of Jakarta
Categories
Analysis

What is soft power?

Hard power vs. soft power

In international relations, there are two main types of power: hard power and soft power. Hard power is related to the traditional image people have when they hear the word “power.” The definition of hard power is “power deployed in the form of coercion;” this can be using force, threatening the use of force, and putting in place economic sanctions or inducements of payment. Soft power, meanwhile, refers to the “use of positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives.” This means that the main aim of a “soft power” foreign policy is to become influential rather than using any form of “real” (or hard) power.

The origin of soft power

The concept of soft power was first proposed by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s. Joseph Nye originally described three sources of soft power, namely political values, culture, and foreign policy. After World War II ended, the basis of U.S. soft power was the spread of ideas and values like democracy, a free-market economy, and human rights. People and countries looked up to the United States of America as a role model and wanted to be like them. Therefore, these people and countries were more willing to put these ideas like a democratic government and a free-market economy into place in their own countries as they had seen how well these worked for the USA. In the period immediately after the end of the Cold War, the concept of “soft power” caught fire among politicians, with some even claiming that soft power “defined” the period immediately after the Cold War.

Soft power today

Although hard power has been used more frequently again by countries again nowadays — an example is North Korea building nuclear weapons — China has increasingly been using soft power. In Joseph Nye’s original article on soft power, China was hardly mentioned. Nowadays, China is the world’ biggest trading country. Examples such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative — through which the Chinese government aims to encourage economic growth in other countries by providing the necessary infrastructure — serve as evidence of China’s new approach to international relations.

Sources

  1. https://softpower30.com/what-is-soft-power/
  2. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/20/the-rise-and-fall-of-soft-power/
Categories
Weekly Summaries

19th of April – 25th of April

President Déby of Chad killed

President Idriss Déby was considered crucial “to battling Islamist extremism in the central Sahel region,” according to the New York Times. Thus, he was backed by both France and the United States. This past week, however “he was killed in clashes between insurgents and government soldiers” (the New York Times). He had just secured his sixth term in office.

Other News

  • Aleksei Navalny is on his third week of hunger strike to protest against his lack of access to medical treatment and has now been moved to a hospital
  • Last weekend, a passenger train north of Cairo derailed, killing at least 11 people
  • The U.S. and China made an agreement to work together to fight climate change
  • Argentina’s inflation rate is now above 40 percent
Categories
Analysis

The Flaws of the Chinese Model

Historical Context

In the 1970s, Beijing liberalized the economy, opening it up to foreigners, and adopting policies that promoted free trade. These were similar to glasnost and perestroika, which were implemented in the USSR. The hope was that millions of Chinese could be lifted out of poverty and into prosperity. While Deng’s reforms started in agriculture, he slowly branched out to include industry as well. A perfect example is Shenzhen, now a bustling metropolis, back then it was a shanty-town. He decided that the Pearl River delta should spearhead the liberalization. The PRC created special economic zones with little oversight, where foreign firms could trade freely with minimal interference from Beijing. This was adopted throughout China as the try-outs were successful, accelerating China’s economic growth.

Analysis

China progressed and grew — to the shock of many economists as no country on earth had ever grown at the rates China did. This raised the net output of firms in the economy, therefore increasing the GDP. As the Chinese adopted friendlier policies, the GDP rose further as China became a lucrative investment destination ceteris paribus. Mathematically speaking, as GDP is Consumer Spending, Investment, Government Expenditure, and Net Exports (Total Exports – Total Imports) added together, as China grew its reputation on the world stage and investments from abroad grew raised the GDP, imports remained stagnant due to an uncompetitive Yuan. Meanwhile, exports also increased, raising Net Exports (Total Exports – Total Imports), having a ripple effect on the GDP too.

GDP of China [PPP] from the World Bank Database (CC BY-4.0)

 As China started to industrialize, the wages grew at rates never seen before. It looked like China had the perfect deck of cards to become an industrialized nation, which it did — as China is a newly industrialized country. However, this came with many downsides: externalities and inequality.

Externalities are a cost or benefit placed on a third party. They can be positive or — as in China’s case —  negative. The costs to produce outweigh the cost to society from the production in markets. Therefore, there is a welfare loss. As there is a welfare loss, society is worse off — this can be in the forms of pollution, increased health risks, lower life expectancies, or otherwise. The welfare loss exposes the public to harmful particles and extreme air pollution. Now, this leads us to question how well-off are the Chinese?
Even though rapid economic growth has increased wages and lifted many out of poverty, and the effect of increased GDP has had direct consequences on the Chinese, nonetheless, one result of rapid unchecked growth is inequality. As The Economist reported in 2015 and 2019, education is highly unequal. Access to education helps individuals earn more due to the development of skilled labor and allows firms larger access to a larger pool of individuals with specialized skills. However, as stated in both the articles, most Chinese schools are now jam-packed with elite, wealthy kids; and uneven wealth distribution, like in the United States, has led to the degradation of the quality of education received by rural Chinese. This can cause them to struggle in the gaokao, an all-important university exam, viewed by many rural Chinese as their only way out. However, the government has been attempting to fix this. Beijing has suggested that educational reforms are needed. There is also the big North-South divide. Farmers in the north cannot earn enough to live, so they migrate to the south to become laborers or factory workers. As they live in poor neighborhoods, this increases the chances of their children scoring poorly on the gaokao.

Conclusion

Nonetheless, China has had tremendous success in eliminating poverty. Its people — once some of the world’s poorest — are now living in a modern country. However, many challenges are facing the Chinese. The ones discussed here are scratching the surface; some others include depopulation, firms’ inefficiency, unemployment, and an overheating economy.

Sources

Categories
Weekly Summaries

15th of March – 21st of March

Shooting in Atlanta

Eight people were killed on Tuesday during a mass shooting in Atlanta at massage parlors. The victims include six Asian women, alerting Asian communities around the US. Law enforcement officials have responded by increasing police patrol, responding to an increase in hate incidents against Asians since the outbreak of COVID-19 over a year ago. The gunman has now been captured and has been charged with several counts of murder.

Other News

  • The European Union is taking legal action against Great Britain, claiming that Britain violated a legal agreement over Brexit and Northern Ireland.
  • Northern China experienced its strongest and largest dust storm in a decade
  • A court in Japan ruled that it was unconstitutional to not recognize same-sex marriages
Categories
Weekly Summaries

1st of March – 7th of March

Protests in Spain

The young Spanish generation has been going to the streets in major cities like Madrid and  Barcelona for more than a week now. At first, the protests were a reaction to the arrest of the rapper Pablo Hasel, but now the protests have developed into a much bigger movement. The pandemic has hit Spain’s youth very hard; over 40% of young Spaniards now find themselves unemployed, the highest number in the EU. The current situation is a far-cry from the Barcelona that once was one of the “best places in Europe” for young people.

The Former French President Found Guilty of Corruption

It is the second time in modern French history that a former president was convicted of a crime. The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to at least one year in prison this past week on charges of corruption. Sarkozy supposedly gained confidential information from a judge after offering to help the judge get a job.

Other News

  • Britain and the EU have had some major disagreement this past week. The path to a “normal” relationship between the two parties remains a rocky one.
  • Last Sunday, the Hong Kong authorities charged 47 pro-democracy activists of violating the new Chinese Security Law.
  • New charges have been raised after the civil leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by Myanmar’s military which staged a coup a few weeks ago. She now faces a prison sentence of up to 9 years.
  • The U.S. announced sanctions against Russia on Tuesday on the accusation of poisoning Aleksei Navalny
  • Three female journalists were shot in Afghanistan last week on their way home from work
  • After hundreds of Nigerian girls were abducted from their boarding school last week, their kidnappers have now released them
Categories
Weekly Summaries

8th of February – 14th of February

Protests in Myanmar

After the military re-claimed power during a coup last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar responded by going out on the streets to protest. They called for the release of the civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained during the coup. In the hopes of gaining international attention, the protestors posted videos on Facebook meanwhile the military has taken a firmer grip. Some of the tactics the military has already implemented are telecommunications outages and banning social media platforms such as Facebook during the process of cementing their power.

Trump’s impeachment trial will go ahead

On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to go ahead with the impeachment trial. The defending team of the former U.S. President Donald Trump argued that it would be unconstitutional to go ahead with the impeachment as Donald Trump is no longer in office at this point. If Trump were to be found guilty, the Senators could prevent him from running for federal office again.

Other News

  • In India, a Himalayan glacier crumbled, killing 7 people, wounding 125 more, and destroying two dam projects.
  • The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, pleaded not guilty. He is accused of several corruption charges, and the general election for which he is running for re-election is only a few weeks away. 
  • The Netherlands has suspended international adoptions for the time being. Recent investigations have shown that there were abuse cases between 1967 and 1998 on which the government had failed to act.
  • China has banned BBC programs
Categories
Weekly Summaries

1st of February – 7th of February

Military Coup in Myanmar

After Myanmar’s civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her top lieutenants were detained during raids in the early Monday morning hours, a one-year long state of emergency was announced on a military television network. The army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is now in power. Later on, a statement was also issued through television, which was supposed to justify the power takeover by the military, claiming that there had been frauds in the November elections. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — the National League for Democracy — had won the election with a landslide victory. Some say that the coup now marks the country’s return to full military rule. She now faces up to three years in prison, being charged with the illegal import of at least 10 walkie-talkies. Since then, the new military government has blocked access to Facebook as Myanmar slowly begins to isolate itself from the rest of the world again.

Navalny sentenced to two years in prison

Aleksei Navalny was sentenced to more than two years in prison by a Moscow court. He is charged with violating a parole from 2014 about regularly checking in with the Russian authorities. Navalny did not do this while he was recovering in Germany. There have been continued protests in Russia, but Russian authorities have signalled that they will remain firm.

Other News:

After the British government announced that they would make it easier for Hong Kong residents to move to Britain, the Chinese government responded by declaring that it would no longer accept the special passports issued by Britain to Hong Kong residents.

Categories
Weekly Summaries

18th of January – 24th of January

President Biden’s Inauguration

This past Wednesday was Trump’s last day in office. He became the first US President to leave the White House before his successor’s (Joe Biden) inauguration. Biden became the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris officially became the first woman and person of colour to take up the position of vice president. Since then, President Biden has already released a national pandemic response plan.

US accuses China of Genocide

The US State Department declared on Tuesday — former US President Trump’s last full day in office — that the Chinese government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity. There has long been criticism of China for suppressing Muslim minority groups, including Uyghurs, in the region of Xinjiang. US officials later said that they hope that other countries will follow in their footsteps.

Other News:

  • Armin Laschet was named the next leader of Angela Merkel’s CDU Party. Elections will take place in Germany in fall.
  • On Thursday morning two bombers wearing explosive vests killed at least 32 people in an attack at a busy market in central Baghdad, Iraq.