T heC onsul A New Publication from the International Affairs Association of the University of Pennsylvania
Winter 2012路 Volume I 路 Issue 2
Director of Publication: David Schwartz
Head Layout Editor: Jing Ran
Editor-in-Chief: Michael Luo
Layout Editor: Amanda Ball Wing Cheung Linda Li Zach Wojtowicz Andrea Yeh
Content Editor: Henry Chang Savar Sareen
Business Staff: Sam Blumenthal Julia Rossi
Columnists Michael Baresich Halie Craig Kohei Fujikawa Avivah Hotimsky Maxwell Hummel Minsoo Kim Zachary Kleinbart Chloe Porter Akshay Subramanian Karl Sjulsen
The C onsul
Economic Impact on Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute
Open Gangang Style: North Korea’s promising Agricultural Reform
Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia
China: Special feature China’s Alliance with Africa - Two-way Traffic or Neo-Colonialism?
Chinese Power Transition
Factionalism: Conflicting or Balancing?
Chinese Real Estate is Burning down Houses
Sharing isn’t always caring: Sudan, South Sudan, and Oil
Mediterranean Syria: Is it Time for the US to Intervene?
Morocco’s Facebook Culture
Spain’s Case of Separation Anxiety
South America Close-Call Reelection: Beginning of the End?
FARC versus Columbia: Peace on the Horizon?
Meanwhile in Tokyo: The Power Struggle Behind the Island Dispute By Kohei Fujikawa On October 31st, Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara resigned as governor of Tokyo to form a new party to return to national politics after 17 years. “If Japan keeps going like this, it will sink into a pit and die,” he said. Despite being frequently criticized for making inappropriate comments mocking foreign countries and minorities, he has received consistent popular support to return to national politics as the governor of Tokyo for the past 13 years. At the end of his flashy governorship, his final show over the Senkaku Islands dispute in the past year has brought Japan-China relations to chaos. Until this summer, the tensions between the two countries had not been worse since the two countries normalized relations in 1972.
Behind The Outbreak of the Conflict On April 12th, 2012, Governor Ishihara announced an initiative to purchase the Senkaku Islands from their private owners for Tokyo city. Ishihara had always been critical of the supposed “status-quo” from Deng Xiaoping’s words in 1978, as the Chinese Communist Party has been consistently assembling propaganda and legislature to consolidate its claims of
sovereignty. The purchase received considerable popular support with approximately 90 thousand people donating a total of over 140 million yen. Even though this figure likely includes strong participation of right wing political groups and the yakuza, donations also came from independent rural families. The nationalization of the Senkaku islands was subsequently announced by Prime Minister Noda in July. However, this was obviously a reluctant compromise over the islands actually being purchased as a part of Tokyo municipality under Ishihara. Being aware of how well-known his dislike of the CCP was, and the reckless nature of annexing the Senkaku Islands into Tokyo Metropolis, Ishihara very likely expected government intervention. Both the Japanese and Chinese governments are accountable for the worsened relations in the recent two months, but the conflict was intentionally sparked by governor Ishihara.
Damages The protests were triggered when the Japan Coast Guard arrested activists of Hong Kong landing in Uotsuri-jima, the largest of the disputed islands. The consequent boycott of Japanese goods and the violent protests have caused severe damages. Japanese government claims that the total economic losses of Japanese industries mounted up to ten billion yen. 4
The protests took place in a total of over 80 cities, including urban areas such as Beijing and Shanghai as well in more rural regions. The protesters attacked Japanese retail stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and factories of automobile or electronic companies. Insurance companies were forced to change their compensation policies regarding the violent protests due to the vast damages. Many of these businesses only restarted their business at the end of November. Chinese companies enforcing the boycott have also canceled many purchases of electronics from companies like Hitachi or Toshiba. Japanese automobile manufacturers such as Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have halved their productions in recent months. Adding to the deceleration of the Chinese economy, the dispute has decreased the total trade as business negotiations of the two countries tend to become postponed.
CCP’s Reactions The CCP, without much surprise, has taken questionable measures in suppressing their violent domestic protests. On September 17th, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei Fu said, “Whether the Japanese side can take seriously China’s firm stance and the Chinese people’s call for justice and whether they can take the correct attitude and action will determine how the situation develops,”
totally disregarding the violent nature of the protest as well as later demanding Japan to compensate for the damages. The Beijing Public Safety Agency was also reported on the 16th to have thanked the citizens for an orderly protest rationally listening to the local police in the protests. The CCP’s methods of diverting domestic discontent to anti-Japanese nationalism have been well-known and predictable to the Japanese, especially from the protests of 2005 and 2010. Japan has also been aware of the CCP’s desperate fear of being seen as weak by the Chinese public, and has definitely experienced the extent to which the CCP would disregard diplomatic protocol to maintain their strong façade. Upon the Japan Coast Guard’s arrest of a Chinese fishing captain who tackled the Coast Guard ships in the Senkaku waters in 2010, rare earth exports to Japan were temporarily sanctioned, heavily threatening the Japanese electronics manufacturers nationwide.
Ishihara’s Intentions From past diplomatic conflicts, Ishihara could have easily expected the violence and potential economic damages resulting from his provocations towards China. As of April when Ishihara announced to purchase the islands, with Bo Xilai’s scandal exposed not too long ago, also awaiting the power transition to Xi Jinping, there couldn’t have been a more delicate time for the CCP to want to protect their legitimacy as a strong government, at the very least towards Japan. Ishihara likely considered his ambitions in national politics in the purchase of the Senkaku Islands. Especially from the rising concern over Japan’s national security policy since Democrat government, Ishihara’s contrasting advocacy of more militant measures had attracted increasing domestic and international attention in recent years. He probably sought popular support by contrasting himself from the DPJ he had criticized as weak and naïve in diplomacy. Ishihara’s return to national politics was becoming an increasingly plausible scenario since 2012. In the first few months of the year, Ishihara held private discussions over possibilities of uniting to a new political party with
his old political allies, Takeo Hiranuma and Shizuka Kamei, the respective leaders of the Sunrise Party of Japan and the People’s New Party. After receiving months of media attention and speculation, Ishihara commented that regardless of the political arrangements, he would form a new party by himself if necessary. The statement was made before his flight to the United States on April 12th, the same date as his announcement of purchasing the islands in Washington immediately after his arrival. His vision of his new political party was likely a factor in the politics of the purchase. The timing of Ishihara’s resignation as governor could be explained by his family relations. Last September, Nobuteru Ishihara, Ishihara’s son and a LDP Member of the House of Representatives, failed to become the leader of LDP over former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Ishihara’s final push to return to national politics could have been the disappointment of his son Nobuteru having lost the chance to become Prime Minister as the head of LDP in the coming elections.
Japanese Electoral Politics and Japan-China Relations The Japanese House of Representatives dissolved in November 16th, awaiting elections on December 16th. While the LDP is ahead of the DPJ on the polls, neither the LDP nor the DPJ have much prospects of winning the majority in the Diet to pass legislation. Smaller parties are uniting to become the third pole. The Japan Future Party, formed on November 28th, immediately became a united coalition of four small parties. After resigning as governor, Ishihara is now the leader of the Japan Restoration Party with its former leader and rising populist Hashimoto as deputy. With the charismatic leadership of Ishihara and Hashimoto, the Japan Restoration Party has reasonable prospects of gaining substantial influence as the third pole. Especially with its overlapping ideologies with the conservative LDP voters and the conservative Abe leadership, the Japan Restoration Party can potentially shred off the dominance of the existing LDP-New Komeito alliance and compromise them into joining in a coalition government. In this scenario, Ishihara could even be·5·
come the next Prime Minister. Depending on the results of the December elections, Ishihara’s potential of further rise in Japanese national politics holds a multitude of ramifications domestically and internationally. Over the issue of Senkaku Islands, Japan has suffered severe economic damages in the conflict with China for the sake of Ishihara’s political ambitions. His political gesture in the dispute at the cost of the economy has not been in the interest of the Japanese society. With the unpopularity of the DPJ, the LDP and the Japan Restoration party have high hopes of forming the new government and directing Japan’s foreign policy relations with China. Ishihara advocates hard-line policies such as Japan’s militarization and acquisition of nuclear weapons while despising China and addressing it with a derogatory term during the military occupation. Abe, leading the LDP, has also positioned to recognize the Self-Defense Forces of Japan as the national military. Meanwhile, China is also at its delicate stage of Xi Jinping’s power transition, having little room for tolerating Ishihara’s provocative remarks. Even though the much of the anti-Japanese protests have recently subsided at last, the political tensions between the two countries are likely to worsen even more. With Ishihara’s responsibility for the worsened relations, his potential rise as a policy-maker and the overall shift of rightward dominance in Japanese politics, the results of the coming election deserves much attention for Japan-China relations.
Open Gangnang Style: North Korean’s Promising Agricultural Reform By Minsoo Kim With the meteoric rise of Psy and his Gangnam Style, South Korea has been in the spotlight, for better or worse, for its upper echelon’s proclivity towards excessive materialism. While the country happily groans under the weight of its socially fabricated problem, its northern counterpart struggles with a slightly more pressing problem: feeding its starving population. Ever since the collapse of Soviet Union, North Korea had difficulty meeting its annual quota of grains necessary to sustain its population. On average, North Korea needs about 5 million tons of grain to feed its population; it only produces approximately 3.5 million tons. Prior to the shortage, North Korea depended on significant Soviet investments to maintain its economic vitality as was the case with most satellite communist countries under Moscow. While China briefly filled in the role of Soviet Union after Soviet pull out in 1991, even China withdrew all forms of economic assistance in 1994, leaving North Korea on life support. Inevitably, North Korea suffered one of the most severe famines in modern history with up to 10% of the population (~3 million people) succumbing to the failure to meet even the most basic caloric needs. Severe
drought, ineffective central planning, and disproportionate spending on the military all contributed to the perfect storm that contracted North Korean economy as much as 50% during the duration of the famine. The problem of food security was further exacerbated by the aging infrastructures that impeded the productivity of farmers, no thanks to the lack of meaningful foreign investment since the early 90s. Most important, however, is the fact that the nature of centrally planned economy requires that farmers must give up nearly all of its crop yield to the state, providing virtually no incentives for farmers to increase crop output. Although the relationship between productivity and incentives were well documented
in other centrally planned economies, none was more pronounced and exacted dire consequences such as one in North Korea. With the paradigmatic shift in the political landscape, hopeful winds of reform are blowing. The sudden death of Kim Jong-il last December had 6
catapulted his twenty-nine year old son Kim Jong-un into power. Experts have long speculated that the young leader will gradually roll out Westerninfluenced economic reforms due to his educational background in Switzerland. According to various sources, Kim Jong-un has spent the better part of his first year in power by removing key military hardliners, including one of his late father’s closest aides and senior general, Ri Yong Ho. While the purging of military extremists does not necessarily equate to reneging North Korea’s “military first” policy, it is apparent that Kim Jong-un seeks to right the imbalance that the policy created by neglecting other areas of governance such as economic development. One of the first known initiatives announced by the new government is designed to address the aforementioned problem of grain shortfall. Previously, farmers were only allowed to keep a fraction of their crop yield to the point of bare sustenance (~167 kg per person, compared with 328 kg, the consumption of an average American). Under the new plan, farmers would be allowed to keep 30~50% of their harvest after meeting the quota. The logic behind this policy is painfully elementary: Increase in incentives will increase productivity, thereby closing the shortfall gap. If successful, the implications of surplus grain are huge: A vibrant market economy can be realized around the surplus grain. Farmer can legally sell or barter the leftover
grain for goods or services to meet other needs. While black market and limited open-air market is permissible in North Korea, the influx of the sheer volume of leftover grain will completely transform the size of the North Korean market economy. When push comes to shove, the localized market economy centered on grain surplus may expand to a national scale, dramatically improving the quality of life of North Korean citizens. Better yet, the surplus allowance by the North Korean government can be interpreted as its further concession to market activity. The implementation of this policy may reflect an attitudinal change in
the part of the government by being willing to accept increased market activity as a byproduct of food security. However, as entrenched of a problem food security is for North Korea, getting out of the hole will prove to be just as difficult. The problem of labor productivity cannot be solved with a one-step solution. The capital stock is outdated and worn out – some spare parts of imported machinery can no longer be procured because they are
no longer in production. Without the necessary agricultural equipment, the farmers probably will not be able to raise the crop yield despite the incentives. Lack of agricultural education also reduces the productive potential of farmers. Innovative farming education is vital to maximize the productivity of a plot of land and minimize the depletion of soil nutrients. In addition, the new policy may not even impel farmers to become more productive at all. The surplus policy may only validate farmers to bring out the hidden portion of their crop yield into the open. Instead of increasing crop yield and having legitimate market activity as a byproduct, the government may legitimize market activity and having increased crop yield as a byproduct by making the mistake of causally linking surplus allowance to increased crop yield. Another issue that the government is wary of is the political ramifications of the policy should the surplus policy succeed. Wealthy farmers and other beneficiaries of the policy may form a formidable political faction to challenge the traditional power grid of military and Worker’s Party. The current power structure may unravel further if the farmers decide to lead a movement for democracy, which has been the trend around the world as people’s economic conditions improve. Despite the above challenges, the implementation of this new policy casts a cautiously optimistic outlook of North Korea’s future. The obvious mar·7·
ket implications of this policy reflect a fundamental attitudinal change of the regime in setting economic development as a greater priority than before. The policy also presents a political risk taking on the part of the new dictator in an effort to win the heart of the people and normalize the plight of the country.
When push comes to shove, the localized market economy centered on grain surplus may expand to a national scale. .. Better yet, the surplus allowance by the North Korean government can be interpreted as its further concession to market activity.
The most important step for the dictator now is to continually take pragmatic steps towards economic development and ensure that his will to reform does not atrophy despite setbacks. Who knows? With the increased production of Gangnang (corn in North Korean dialect and the crop of choice in North Korea), maybe North Korea will liberalize the market into open economy modeled after China. Then the North Koreans will then learn about the Gangnam Style craze of their southern brethrens and the entire nation will dance shamelessly to celebrate the abundance of corn. Open Gangnang Style. C
Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking ARTICLE TITLE in Southeast Asia by Zack Kleinbart
“I want to discuss an issue that ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.”
“I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name -- modern slavery. ”- Barack Obama As defined by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking is defined as the transportation of persons by illicit means into, among other things, prostitution, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, or organ farms. In order to constitute trafficking, perpetrators must exploit their victims by the any of the following means: the threat or use of force, abduction, fraud, deception, or the abuse of a victims’ position of vulnerability. One of the primary hubs of human trafficking is the Greater Mekong Subregion. This area constitutes southern China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. It is an expanse of the world which over 260 million
people call home. While the region is overwhelmingly poor, there are large discrepancies between the average incomes of citizens in different nations. For example, Thailand’s GDP per capita is $8,677 ; Vietnam and Laos, two nations from which many migrants and trafficking victims enter Thailand, have per capita GDP’s below $1000 . China as well has great income disparity between its coastal and rural citizens. As a result, an estimated 600,000 rural citizens migrate from China in order to improve their lots, while five million immigrants per year are expected to flood China’s coastal region in the immediate future. In addition, many inhabitants of the Greater Mekong Subregion choose to migrate to ·8·
avoid political turmoil. The most notable example of this is in Myanmar, where a brutally oppressive regime has engendered an exodus from the country. Forced Labor and Debt Bondage One of the two major uses of trafficked humans is forced labor. The central hub for forced-labor trafficking is Thailand, where the large number of businesses creates demand for cheap labor, and where the relative wealth of the Thai people allows for the largescale purchase of vulnerable migrants. The scale of human trafficking is so severe that, for example, over 20% of Cambodians deported from Thailand in the last decade were identified
as trafficking victims. This number jumps to 32% of Laotians who migrate into Thailand. Overall, of the 1.5 to 2.3 million immigrants in Thailand, up to 12% are victims of human trafficking. Within the region, the primary conduit through which humans are exploited is the practice known as debt bondage. Simply put, a “prospective employer” or transporter offers individuals the opportunity to receive good-paying employment on another country or in a different part of the same country. In order to do so, the migrants have to pay processing and transportation fees to those in charge of the move. Usually these fees are written down and signed into legitima-
“Compare trafficking to the antebellum American South, where slaves worked most of the day, were beaten and raped, were forbidden from leaving their master’s property, and on the whole, were utterly degraded as human beings. The similarities are strikinghuman trafficking, is, in effect, modern day slavery.” cy via contracts. Although this seems like a dehumanizing practice, it is actually quite common and is even regulated by national governments so as to put a cap on “fair” fees. That said, in the cases when the trafficker is more malicious, he will target the illiterate or the legally ignorant and will create exorbitant charges that the migrants cannot afford. Once the migrant has been moved from his country by a trafficker, he has no protection whatsoever. So
the trafficker, in order to collect the debts “owed” to him, will force the migrant into slavery, oftentimes for years. Vietnamese victims, for example, may be duped into indebting themselves almost $10,000 above the limit established by their government. This debt is well above the per capita GDP for any country in the region, meaning that in order to pay off their debts they are forced into horrific working conditions for extensive periods of time. The conditions of labor under which these migrants work are akin to slavery. Most of the males trafficked into Thailand are forced to work on fishing vessels or in fisheries, while most of the women who are forced to labor non-sexual jobs are sent to work as domestic servants. Children who are compelled to labor in Thailand often do so as beggars who work for child slavers. For example, surveys have shown that those trafficked onto Thai fishing boats did not receive pay, were forced to work 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, and were physically beaten. Similarly, studies found that 58% of trafficked fishermen had witnessed a fellow fishermen killed by boat captains in instances when they were too weak or sick to work. Eighty-two percent of domestic workers in Thailand report that they work over twelve hours a day without ever receiving a day off; many of these same workers report that their employers forbid them from leaving their workplace and/or withhold wages. Compare this to the antebellum American South, where slaves worked most of the day, were beaten and raped, were forbidden from leaving their master’s property, and on the whole, were utterly degraded as human beings. The similarities are striking- human trafficking, is, in effect, modern day slavery. Sex Slavery and Forced Marriages Victims of human trafficking are also funneled into the sex industry. The victims, primarily women and children, are forced into sexual slavery or are sold into forced marriages. Since the illicit sex industry is so hard to track, there are no reliable estimates about the total number of humans forced into the industry. However, it would be a conservative estimate to ·9·
say that tens of thousands of new victims are trafficked into the sex trade each year. Women and children subjected to forced prostitution are often misled by fraudulent labor opportunities and sold to brothels throughout
“Victims, primarily women and children, are forced into sexual slavery or are sold into forced marriages.”
Southeast Asia. Within Cambodia, native and Vietnamese women and children are trafficked from rural areas to urban ones; some large entertainment establishments each may exploit between 100-200 women and children on a given night. Inside of Thailand, nearly 25% of sex workers are boys and girls under the age of 18, including children as young as 12. In addition to the debt bondage used to compel migrants into forced labor, many trafficked persons forced into sexual slavery have been kidnapped or even sold by their own families. Perhaps this practice is most relevant in cases of forced marriages. Chinese “One Child” policy and severe sex-selective abortion trends have created an extremely skewed sex ratio inside of the country. Arithmetically
Asia speaking, many Chinese men will not be able to find wives in their homeland. Hence a black market for foreign wives has germinated inside of China. In Cambodia, the government had at one point made it illegal for its citizens to marry foreigners. Citing incredible rises in legal marriage to Koreans, the government believed that forced marriages must be rising too; and hence sought to be able to more easily crack down on sex traders. Reports even show that women, particularly Vietnamese ones, are used as surrogate birth mothers for foreigners, who are willing to pay the relatively “discounted” price for their female victims. Human trafficking just may be the most pressing human rights issue facing the world today. Worldwide, up to 2.5 million persons are trafficked annually; half of these are children. All in all, over 12 million people are involved in exploitative labor practices. This means that a group of people, equal in number than the entire population of Pennsylvania, is bound to their traffickers. There are several options available for dealing with this issue. First off, the governments of countries involved with trafficking must increase the severity of punishments that they dole out to traffickers. In addition, payment structures for border patrol and police officers must be constructed as to incentivize law enforcement to actually enforce the law, rather than reap the benefits of bribes from traffickers. Third, and most importantly, governments must establish programs ensuring that each and every citizen gets an education. Not only will this disseminate information about how to avoid being
“Over 12 million people are involved in exploitative labor practices. This means that a group of people, equal in number than the entire population of Pennsylvania, is bound to their traffickers.”
trafficked, but a more educated populace will diminish the need for migratory work in the first place. It will take a concerted and dedicated effort of all of the nations of the world to put a stop to human trafficking. Until the world decides to prioritize the issue, and until individuals around the world are compelled- by their governments, or by their souls- to stop benefitting from trafficking, the unfortunate truth is that modern day slavery will continue to thrive. C
· 10 ·
China - Special Feature
China’s Alliance with Africa
-Two-Way Traffic or
It is becoming increasingly hard to think of a country that China does not have a presence in. China’s tremendous rise as an economic and political power over the past two decades and its insatiable appetite for resources have led it to seek ventures in continents such as Africa and Latin America. These overtures have undoubtedly opened new avenues and opportunities for underdeveloped and developing countries but they are not bereft of potential dangers. Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in the African continent. Within a short span of less than a decade, China has emerged as the most important player in Africa’s economic scene. The Asian behemoth surpassed the US as the continent’s largest trading partner in 2009. In 2010, Sino-African trade amounted to a whopping $120 billion compared to a figure of $10 billion in 2000. In the wake of sluggish economic growth in the developed economies in the North America and Europe, African nations view China as the primary source of trade, investment and even foreign aid. China’s top trading partners in Africa include Angola, South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt. While it is seemingly undeniable that China’s drive into Africa is primarily fueled
by its interest in the continent’s immense natural resource wealth, China has engaged in many initiatives to construct a symbiotic relationship with its African partners. It has been involved in building roads, schools, hospitals, and bridges, developing the nascent oil industry of countries such as Angola and also training African workers in the manufacturing sector. The country’s foray into the continent, however, has unsurprisingly been met with skepticism from certain quarters in the West. China’s business-only approach to relations with African countries and its considerable involvement in countries run by autocratic regimes has drawn the ire of western commentators. This article seeks to explore China’s var-
“In 2010, SinoAfrican trade amounted to a whopping $120 billion compared to a figure of $10 billion in 2000.”
By Akshay Subramanian ied involvement in Africa, the benefits that have accrued to both parties, the sources of concern and frustration from this budding relationship and the prospects of this alliance that holds the key to the future of an entire continent with more than 1 billion people. China’s main mode of conducting business with resource rich African nations has been to offer development loans or become involved in the construction of special economic zones in exchange for oil, minerals such as iron-ore and copper and to a lesser extent, food and agricultural commodities. Angola recently received a $2 billion oil-backed loan from China’s Export Import Bank and funds from other Chinese companies to train Angolan workers and to build schools, hospital and roads in exchange for Angola’s crude oil. China has also helped countries such as Nigeria and Angola in their efforts to develop their oil sectors while benefitting from trade deals. Africa, as a region, is China’s second largest source of crude oil after Middle East. Crude oil from African nations such
China - Special Feature
as Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea account for more than 30% of China’s total crude oil imports, a clear indication of how crucial Africa’s resources are to China. The Sino-African relationship cannot be viewed as one-way traffic. In exchange for Africa’s mineral wealth, China has been heavily involved in the accelerating the development of Africa’s crumbling infrastructure. China has taken steps to ensure transfer of knowledge from Chinese firms to local African businesses and is an active investor in Africa’s emerging industries. For instance, China has offered support for the construction of a special economic zone in Ethiopia and is involved in building a road leading to the coast. Chinese companies have also invested in Ethiopia’s leather sector and have trained over 800 Ethiopian workers in manufacturing shoes and other leather products. China also recently offered a $1.1 billion development loan to Nigeria, of which $500 million will be used towards the development of a light rail system in the capital city of Abuja. The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation will be involved in the construction of this rail system. Additionally, China and Ghana signed an agreement in September 2010, whereby Ghana would receive infrastructure-related loans worth $15 billion. China also signed a similar agreement with Congo in September 2009 worth $6 billion. China has also been offer-
ing medical aid by sending doctors to clinics in Africa, building hospitals and investing in the training of African medical staff. By 2010, China had sent a total of 17,000 medical workers to almost all countries in Africa. China’s largely successful entry into Africa and its acceptance by African nations beg the question- Why have the developed countries in the West not engaged Africa to the extent China has? The answer lies in the stark difference in the approach the two countries have when dealing with Africa. Unlike the West, China’s investment and aid is not linked to political reforms and the human rights record in the countries they do business with. China stays completely aloof from the governance and politics of the countries and this suits its partners rather well. On the other hand, aid from the US and Western Europe is mainly delivered via non-governmental organizations and is contingent on the governance of these countries. The indignation of African countries to the West stems from the sentiment most African nations hold that the West is bent on instructing them how to run their own countries. For example, donors from organizations in the West may have qualms donating funds to Rwanda because of the country’s alleged clandestine support for the violent rebellion in neighboring Congo. China, however, has had no reservations investing in roads, agriculture and power projects in the country. 12
China’s occasional involvement in African politics is expectedly driven by its business interests. The world’s second largest economy found itself playing the role of a mediator in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan over the division of oil wealth. While South Sudan holds close to 75% of the combined oil reserves, North Sudan possesses majority of the pipelines and distribution infrastructure needed to export the oil. Considering that the China National Petroleum Corporation is the largest investor in Sudan and China accounts for nearly 70% of Sudan’s crude oil exports, China had a significant stake in the peaceful resolution of the dispute and
“Unlike the West, China’s investment and aid is not linked to political reforms and the human rights record in the countries they do business with.”
thus agreed to take on the mantle of mediator. While China’s massive efforts to engage Africa may appear as an indisputable win-win situation for all parties involved, such an assumption is dangerously flawed. China’s “busi-
ness-only” approach to foreign affairs and vested self-interests in developing a partnership with African nations has been criticized. While China’s interest in Africa’s resources is in full view for all to see, it is also believed that China’s efforts are tied to its objective of winning crucial votes from these African countries in important forums such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Allegations also persist that China has been offering military and financial support to autocratic African regimes. China’s arms exports to Africa have witnessed a tremendous rise. China’s share of the arms market in Africa has grown to 25% from around 6% in the span of little more than a decade. It is alleged that China’s weapons are being used by repressive governments in conflict zones in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Ivory Coast, in violation of arms embargoes imposed on these countries by the UN. While many of the above criticisms have been leveled by governments and organizations in the West, certain quarters within Africa also view China’s dominating presence in their countries with suspicion. The Chinese have been rebuked for engaging in exploitative business practices and human rights violations. There are claims that Chinese companies underbid local companies for government contracts and do not hire enough local workers on infrastructure projects.
Concerns have also been raised over the poor treatment of African workers by Chinese firms. For instance, working conditions in the Chinese operated mines in Zambia have been considered as inhuman. Furthermore, Chinese companies also allegedly propagate the rampant corruption that African
“China’s “business-only” approach to foreign affairs and vested self-interests in developing a partnership with African nations has been criticized.” countries are notorious for by paying bribes to unions to avoid repercussions. Some Africans go so far as viewing China as a ‘colonial’ power and believe that the Asian giant treats their nations as dumping grounds for cheap Chinese exports such as machinery, telecom equipment and consumer goods. There have also been reports on the shoddy quality of the projects that China has helped construct. A hospital in Angola built by Chinese firms was forced to shut down after cracks started appearing in the walls months after it was opened. An 80 mile road 13
constructed by the Chinese in Zambia has eroded after it was unable to withstand heavy rains. Despite the comments of the many detractors, the mutual benefits that can accrue to both China and Africa in this engagement are fairly evident. Africa nations can seek to leverage its trade relations with China and use its renewed infrastructure to expand exports to other countries. China certainly has the financial muscle to help Africa bridge its infrastructure spending gap of $31 billion. China can also appease its critics by adopting business practices that do not propagate corruption and impose stricter labor standards. These practices are in China’s best interests since they do not demand political reform from the individual governments and are thus easier to implement. The tangible benefits, notwithstanding, there are challenges lurking in corners that can derail this partnership. Considering the scale of this engagement, China’s future growth trends are of high significance for Africa’s development and there are clear signs of the Chinese economy slowing down. Despite the potential roadblocks, the China-Africa partnership holds tremendous potential and could well hold the key to Africa’s prosperity and economic development. C
China - Special Feature
Chinese Power Transition ARTICLE TITLE By Michael Luo If Mitt Romney had won the American presidential election a few weeks ago, the result would have marked an instantaneous shift in American leadership and policy. However, the formal transition of power from Hu Jintao to incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping is of much less significance as an isolated event. November 15, 2012 brought no new information about the direction of the next generation of Chinese leadership that we did not already have, as unlike in western democracies, politics in China is played out behind the curtain months or years before public announcements, which are themselves merely formalities. The main development during the 18th National Congress of the CPC was the smooth installation of the new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme governing body within the Chinese Communist Party. The complex system of overlapping positions makes the transition process even murkier. Xi Jinping is not actually the President yet, though he became the official leader of the country with his assumption of the positions of General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Hu Jintao will remain
President until the March meeting of the People’s Congress – essentially a rubber-stamp legislative body subordinate to the Party Congress which was the focus of the main elements of the power transition. Since Chinese leaders often hold several positions as components of their power, transition is not a single event. Rather, it is a gradual process that can take years if the outgoing leader is reluctant to relinquish power. Hu Jintao’s predecessor Jiang Zemin remained Chairman of the CMC for two years after Hu became Party Secretary, a source of tension within the government. The comparatively rapid pace of the current transition, in particular the relinquishment of military leadership by Hu is a hopeful sign that the process has become more orderly over the past few decades. Members of each Chinese political generation tend to share similar backgrounds due to their similar ages. The first generation led by Mao Zedong was overwhelmingly composed of top military leaders from WWII and the Chinese Civil War. Deng Xiaoping brought into power leaders who, like him, had been purged from power during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. Jiang Zemin’s generation included many people educated in the Soviet Union. The outgoing fourth generation includes many engineers, which led to a technocratic political system and sustained economic growth. The fifth generation will include many · 14 ·
members of the Class of 1977, many of whom were educated abroad not only as engineers, but also as economists, businessmen, and social scientists. The Class of 1977 refers to the first new wave of students who entered universities in 1977, the year after Mao’s death, when Deng Xiaoping reopened the high schools and universities that had been closed for a decade during the Cultural Revolution. That year, over two decades worth of students competed for a small number of spots in universities.
The transfer of power from Hu Jintao to his successor Xi Jinping is the smoothest and most peaceful in the history of the People’s Republic of China. It was the most selective admissions year ever seen in modern China, and it produced the best and brightest class of students from an entire generation. Many members of this class came to the United States to continue their studies during the 1980s. The ones who stayed in China are now reaching the apex of all aspects of society, from business to
culture to politics. Li Keqiang, the successor to Premier Wen Jiabao is a member of the Class of ‘77, as is Zhang Yimou, the director of films including Hero and the ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Each generation of leadership also develops a defining doctrine for its policies, always taking care to incorporate any reforms into established Communist party principles. The “Harmonious Society” was the doctrine of the Hu Jintao administration, the latter half of which saw a transition away from the no-holds-barred economic development of the previous decade. This philosophy emphasizes sustainability and stability over the raw magnitude of progress, as China has begun to experience some of the side effects of its growth.
Very gradually, the leadership is taking a more active role in reining in corruption and implementing environmental protections as the pace of growth slows. As the Communist Party values stability over all else, the first half of Xi Jinping’s administration will likely see a continuation and acceleration of his predecessor’s initiatives. The pace of social and political reform in a country with China’s three millennia of history was always more likely to follow the path of Great Britain, which implemented gradual reforms in a centurieslong evolution, rather than a sudden democratic revolution like those which toppled the rest of the world’s Communist regimes two decades ago. C 1960
Below: a timeline of the three top positions in the goverment of the PRC. Paramount Leader is an unofficial title referring to the single most powerful official in China. The Chairman (General Secretary after 1982) is the top political post in the CCP. The Chairman of the CMC is the top military commander, historically the source of most power in the PRC. In recent years, the trend has been to fuse all three positions along with that of the President, the ceremonial position of the head of state.
Paramount Leader Chairman/General Secretary of the Central Committee Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Mao Zedong Hua Guofeng Deng Xiaoping Hu Yaobang Zhao Ziyang Jiang Zemin Hu Jintao Xi Jinping 江泽民 华国锋 邓小平 胡耀邦 赵紫阳 胡锦涛 习近平 毛泽东 · 15 ·
China - Special Feature
Factionalism: Conflicting or Balancing? By Jing Ran Though the Communist Party retains a monopoly on power in the Chinese government, there is a great deal of political competition behind the scenes. Particularly in the prelude to the selection of the fifth generation of Communist leadership , the competition between different factions within the party has grown fierce, mainly among the Shanghai Clique, the Crown Prince Party and the Communist Youth League.. In such context, understanding the internal balance among fac-
“each faction has expertise in governance that the other lacks, preventing any of them to gain absolute advantage.”
tions becomes essential in analyzing the promotion of Chinese political figures and their future policies. The first faction, the Shanghai Clique, draws its name from the shared working experience and network in Shanghai administration of most of its members. This faction extended itself mainly from the patronage of former CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin and former PRC Vice-President Zeng Qinghong, two behind-the-scene players in Chinese politics after their retirement. With the background in Shanghai, this faction focuses more on coastal economic growth and policies that benefit those regions. Usually considered in coalition with the Shanghai Clique is the second faction, the Crown Prince Party or the Princelings. Descendants of prominent senior communist officials and thus closely related to the Communist Party in family background, the Princelings include the incoming Paramount Leader Xi Jinping and Bo Xilai, the former leader in Chongqing who was recently expelled from his party position due to a criminal scandal. With their ‘red’ family background, Princelings try to protect the interest of the party and share Shanghai Clique’s emphasis on economic growth and less on social 16
Factional disputes represent the existence of different voices in Chinese government and thus make room for more political diversity in interest and decision making in the disparity. In contrast, the third faction, the ‘Tuanpai’ or ‘China Communist Youth League Faction’, , has a more grass roots background compared to the Princelings and the Shanghai Clique. Prominent Tuanpai leaders include the outgoing President Hu Jintao, outgoing State Council Premier Wen Jiabao, and the incoming Premier, Li Keqiang. Generally, Tuanpai share the experience of working in the CCP’s Youth League, a nationwide youth organization centered in China’s poorer provinces. Thus, they tend o be more
populist in character and focus more on social equality and the less privileged. They are also more concerned to address the socioeconomic tension
Former Pres. Jiang Zemin
President Hu Jintao
that threatens social stability in the country. However, Tuanpai is sometimes questioned on their capability of handling international business and macroeconomic policies. Factional disputes have caused
The first faction, ‘Shanghai Clique’, draws its name from the shared working experience and network in Shanghai administration of most of its members.
Usually considered in coalition with the Shanghai Clique is the second faction, ‘Princelings’, descendants of prominent senior communist officials
The third faction, ‘Tuanpai’ or ‘China Communist Youth League Faction’, however, mostly have a more grass root background compared to Princelings and Shanghai Clique. New President Xi Jinping
· 17 ·
wrestling in the political arena. Each faction maneuvers to promote their preferred candidates in office, gaining maximum control over the next generation of CCP leaders. Considering that 14 out of 25 members in the current CCP Politburo have just retired and handed over office to younger officials in the recent 18th National Congress, the competition between factions has been particularly intense. However, despite the differences in background and policy preference, some fundamental beliefs allow cooperation and coexistence of them. All factions are committed to advocate the legitimacy of the Communist Party in China and ‘social market economy’. Inheriting the top priority of maintaining stability from former President Deng Xiaoping in 1980s, the CCP politicians have reached a consensus on the broader level, struggling to keep factional competition behind the scene and to preserve its ruling power as well as its interest. Also, each faction has expertise in governance that the other lacks, preventing any of them to gain absolute advantage. The Shanghai Clique and the Princeling’s experience on macroeconomics and coastal development and Tuanpai’s knowledge focusing on inland provinces necessitates cooperation. Furthermore, the informality and blurry definition of the factions prevents the borders from being absolute. For example, one member of the Politburo, Li Yuanchao, has a Princeling family background but is known as a member of Tuanpai. Xi Jinping , has gained approval of Tuanpai members even as a Princeling, an essential advantage helping him on the path to becoming President. Even though the factionalism in the Communist Party remains backstage politics most of the time and is criticized for its lack of transparency, it does have some positive aspects. Factional disputes represent the existence of different voices in Chinese government. Thus, the conflicts and balancing between factions make room for more political diversity in interest and decision making in the future, even within the seemingly rigid one-party system. C
China - Special Feature
Chinese Real Estate is BURNING ARTICLE TITLE down the House by Michael Baresich
Clean white buildings line newly paved streets. Large banners advertise apartments for sale. Scattered between these structures are smaller, more colorful buildings, including kindergartens, stores, a stadium, and all of the other elements of necessary for the flourishing of residential life. The Chinese city of Chenggong has all of this and more. Except there are almost no people living in Chenggong.
A closer look reveals more details. Barely any cars can be found in the streets. Even motorbikes and scooters are hard to find. Most of those colorful storefronts are completely empty. The scene is like something out of an apocalyptic movie, but with less destruction. China, the nation with the world’s largest population, encompassing almost a fifth of the entire world, has too many buildings. What happened? China’s economy has been growing explosively since market reforms kicked in during the 1970’s, averag-
ing about 10% GDP growth per year and not projected to slow down by very much. This growth has lead to an enormous build up of capital over the years, and capital needs a place to live. Rather than investing in stocks, bonds, or simply putting their cash in a bank account, Chinese investors— typically individual retail investors whose incomes have grown with the economy—have turned to real estate for years. Home prices have grown considerably during the last thirty years, and investors have seen great returns, especially compared with savings accounts that sometimes can’t keep up with inflation. Consequently, some individuals own as many as six homes with overall, 41% of total Chinese household wealth is locked up in real estate, compared with 26% in the United States. Real estate is so expensive that many are finding themselves unable to get in on the ground floor, leading them to live with parents and family for years. When housing prices rise almost 8% in a single month in 70 different cities, finding affordable opportunities is rare.
This situation is a classic real estate bubble, similar to the one the United States experienced during the mid 2000’s. Real estate prices, particularly housing, grew rapidly, spurred by in· 18 ·
vestment. Of course, this cannot go on forever, and eventually the bubble pops once people realize that there is no real reason for prices to go up this fast. The Chinese government tried to
Chinese investors— typically individual retail investors whose incomes have grown with the economy—have turned to real estate for years. calm the real estate frenzy in 2010, after a three year period of 50% annual real estate price increases. Developers were forced to cut prices, causing riots among recent homebuyers in Shanghai. Over time, prices overall, very slowly, lowered, from this government to step in and stop the frenzy. Even so, in certain cities, prices continue to rise. This has been greeted by many with a sigh of relief, thankful for the end of the downturn and welcoming China’s real estate “recovery.” Major US investors, such as CalPers, have a lot riding on Chinese real estate, and have good reason to be thankful that
their investments are appreciating. However, many still ignore the threat of continued price increase in many cities. In October, prices rose in 56 cities, signaling a return back to inflating the bubble. Given the lack of viable financial alternatives, many investors are still pouring money into Chinese real estate, driving demand for many other
In October, prices rose in 56 cities, signaling a return back to inflating the bubble. sectors of the Chinese economy. Real estate by itself makes up over 8% of total GDP, compared to around 2% for the United States, and has been growing since 2002. Some signs are indicating a potential slowdown in new construction, which would be disastrous not only for the real estate market, but also for all associated industries, including steel and concrete production. Given that many of these industries are the primary drivers of GDP growth in a weakened Chinese economy, their collapse would be highly problematic. What happens next? Thus far, the current efforts by the Chinese government to curb the massive housing bub-
ble have worked, partially, but there are continual signs of swinging back towards price inflation, particularly in some cities. Even if the prices stay relatively stable on the whole, they are still far higher than they ought to be. There is still the possibility of the bubble bursting as long as the prices are at their current level. If the bubble bursts, there will be a problematic cascade of effects. Considering how much of the current real estate bubble is caused by the investment of household savings, a bursting of the bubble will wipe much of those savings out. We would expect to see a large slowing of the economy as savings are built up, which would be problematic for Chinese firms, many of which are already in large amounts of debt. In short, we would see similar problems to the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble in the United States in 2007, which heralded the financial crisis and the current recession. While there might not be an allout financial crisis in China—the capital provided by homebuyers originates from savings, rather than loans—the Chinese financial system would be impacted by this wipe-out of savings and the subsequent decrease in demand. Most likely, the CCP will step in to try to slow the fall. The Yuan may fall in value, which would be good for exporters, but problematic for purchasing power domestically. Economically, things will slow, but the largest impact will be in the political realm. The CCP
· 19 ·
The Yuan may fall in value, which would be good for exporters, but problematic for purchasing power
has been fraught with issues lately, including the expulsion of Bo Xilai. A large recession, or even a contraction, in the Chinese economy will only make the Party’s job harder. Their political legitimacy has been maintained over the past thirty years by the increasing standards of living for the average citizen, who was only able to own property about twenty years ago and has never seen real estate decline. Recent calls for more political freedoms will echo louder without the noise of a loud, prosperous Chinese economy to drown it out, and we may even see an unraveling of the Chinese political system. Of course, this is all speculation, but very much within the realm of possibility. What is certain is that China is addicted to real estate, and withdrawal symptoms will be harsh. The real question is not necessarily what will happen, but when it will happen. C
Sharing isn’t always caring:
Sudan, South Sudan, ARTICLE TITLE and Oil by Karl Sjulsen Only several months ago the situation between Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan were tenuous at best with full-scale war looming just around the corner. However, on September 22nd Sudan’s President Bashir and South Sudan’s Kiir signed an oil-sharing agreement, tentatively normalizing relations between the two states. On October 8, Omar Bashir even agreed to open Sudan’s borders to the south. The deal and subsequent normalization of relations is even more surprising in the context of the ethno-religious divide between North and South that has come to define the country’s modern history. The resumption of oil production in the South and export through the north, while pragmatic in the short-term, represents only a temporary fix to conflict. Deep-rooted ethno-religious tensions and long-term economic pressure will eventually reignite this decades-old conflict. The unstable relationship between South Sudan and its northern counterpart has developed over a turbulent half-century of interrupted civil war. The core of the conflict is ethno-
religious with roots that stretch as far back as the late 19th century. The North is predominantly comprised of Muslim Arabs whereas the South is predominantly Christian or Animist Black Africans. This ethnic and religious divide has existed for at least the last century. Moreover, the North developed more rapidly than the South and eventually came to dominate the political and economic spheres of the entire country. Prior to its independence in 1956, Sudan was an Anglo-Egyptian colony. Egyptian religious affinity with the Muslim North led to the marginalization of southern Sudan. The resulting civil strife and social unrest in the South quickly spread during the pro-
“The inequitable split of oil fields only exacerbated the existing ethno-religious tensions and border disputes between the two states”
cess of decolonization. And, in 1955 longstanding ethnic and religious tensions finally culminated civil war. The first civil war from, 1955 to 1972, was followed by the second civil war, · 20 ·
from 1983 to 2005. The second civil war was ended by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which created a separate governing body for South Sudan, essentially granting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (or SPLM, the dominant political party in South Sudan) autonomy. The 2005 CPA created the fracture between North and South, as it exists today.
The relationship between Sudan and South Sudan has been more volatile in the past months than it has been since the end of the second civil war. One factor in particular ensured the relative stability of the relationship since the CPA was signed in 2005. The CPA included a revenue sharing provision to ensure an equitable split of oil resources between North and South. That provision expired in July of 2011 following a Southern referendum that resulted in their decision to secede. While both North and South could benefit from a political agreement over Southern oil exports, the longenduring rivalry between the two constrains this option. The South believes that a century’s worth of marginalization entitles them to increased oil revenues. Meanwhile, the North believes that a centuries worth of sovereignty over all southern oil entitles them to a continued share of it.
The inequitable split of oil fields
“The core of the conflict is ethno-religious with roots that stretch as far back as the late 19th century” only exacerbated the existing ethnoreligious tensions and border disputes between the two states. Oil is simultaneously the South’s only guarantee of survival, as well as the only threat to its stability. Oil makes up 98% of South Sudan’s revenue; thus the economic viability of South Sudan is directly dependent on oil. At the same time however, South Sudanese oil is the primary, if not only, cause for conflict between North and South then and now. To complicate matters, the only pipelines able to carry South Sudan’s 370,000 barrels of oil per day out of the country run through the North to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Furthermore the only refineries are also in the North. However, Sudan is demanding $36 per barrel in transit and refinery fee, whereas South Sudan is only currently willing to pay around $1, which would have be more in line with global standards.
Both Sudan’s came to the verge of war over oil in only April of this year. Over the course of several weeks, there were small-scale violent confrontations between the two nations over disputed oil-producing border regions. The Sudanese Air force bombed South Sudan’s Unity state on March 26 and further border clashes were reported on April 10. Moreover, the bulk of the conflict was instigated by Sudan, whose grievances against the South were not unfounded. When South Sudan declared independence on July 9 of 2011, they gained control of three-quarters of the former Sudan’s oil producing regions. The IMF predicted that Sudan stood to lose around $7.7 billion over the next four years due to the split. Conversely however, national sovereignty and past developmental imbalances between North and South,
justify the South’s claims to the oil. Despite their long history of conflict and the recent escalation of violence, both Sudan’s were somehow able to compromise and avert full-scale war with the recent oil-sharing agreement. While the deal does not ensure a sustainable peace between North and South Sudan, it does demonstrate the dominance of realpolitik in the international realm. The deal can and should be seen as the outcome of a set of strategic choices made by both governments in the face of sharply declining national exports. Both states stood to gain by cooperation, and so they cooperated, albeit after several months of “bargaining” and power balancing. South Sudan realized that its newfound national sovereignty and independence were unsustainable without economic support. In my opinion, the oil-sharing agreement was not a surprising outcome. However, it’s important to emphasize that the situation between the two Sudan’s remains highly volatile. The people in the border regions are still fighting. In fact, there have been
clashes reported as recently as October 26. The deal has failed to appease the various tribes along the border region. The deal failed to address the disputed border region of Abyei, an oil-heavy region. The deal has stripped South Sudan of its strongest bargaining chip, oil exports, and will strip South Sudan of its
“Both Sudan’s came to the verge of war over oil in only April of this year”
economic independence in the long run. It will re-foster the South’s dependence on Northern pipelines, and eventually that dependence will impinge on South Sudan’s ability to remain independent or sovereign. Finally, the deal did not and could not erase the ethno-religious underpinnings of the conflict. So while the agreement will relieve tensions in the short-run, it is merely a temporary (though rational) fix to a decades long conflict that is waiting to reignite.
Map by James Akok · 21 ·
Is it Time for the US to Intervene?
By Chloe Porter The civil war in Syria is rapidly spinning out of control, with no end in sight. The body count has now surpassed 30,000, and the cease-fire that was agreed upon has not stopped the toll from rising. Furthermore, Syria’s relationships with Turkey and Russia continue to worsen, and the violence risks spreading into Lebanon. Syrian stability is in the U.S.’s interest, not only because the U.S. would be viewed as defending its values, but also because a U.S.-allied Syria would likely cease to be an Iranian ally. As such, as the conflict escalates, the debate over the future of U.S. involvement intensifies.
Background Demonstrations began in Syria on March 15, 2011 as a push for reforms similar to the other Arab Spring revolts that swept the Middle East. President Bashar Assad responded to these demonstrations with violence, beginning a clash between the government and the Syrian people. The situation in Syria is particularly complex due to the country’s deep ethnic
divisions, including a large Sunni majority, an Alawite minority that makes up the ruling class and the military, and various other factions. These divisions have spurred the Assad regime to ally with Iran, and Qatar and Saudi Arabia to support the Sunnis, among other alliances that have formed. Assad has also received backing from
“The key issue, however, is the Syrian opposition that remains deeply divided, more than a year after the commencement of the conflict.”
Russia, which along with China has demonstrated clear opposition to U.S. and U.N intervention, and which has provided weapons and food. So far, the U.S. has primarily followed a diplomatic route, but has also provided the Syrian opposition with communications and other “nonlethal” support equipment. Additionally, the U.S. has placed sanctions intended to cripple the Syrian economy. The key issue, however, is the Syrian opposition that · 22 ·
remains deeply divided, more than a year after the commencement of the conflict, consisting of the Syrian National Council, the National Coordination Committee, and the Free Syrian Army, as well as Islamic extremists and other groups.
Exploring the U.S.’s Options The U.S. has a few options if it chooses to intervene. It can provide arms to the rebels, which might hasten Assad’s demise, shorten the length of the conflict and curb casualties, and potentially lead to a Sunnirun state no longer allied with Iran. An alternative to providing arms would be to establish a no-fly zone similar to the one in Libya, an option the Free Syrian Army favors. This strategy would give the opposition more resources, and reduce Assad’s military power by removing his air force. It would also make it safer for humanitarian groups to intervene. A no-fly zone would also give the rebels room to “organize and train.” Proponents of intervention point to the U.S.’s success in Libya as a reason to take this course of action. However, Libya and Syria are not directly comparable. Though we have more strategic interests in Syria, the situation
there is much more complex. Libya had a unified opposition, limited defense, and a more convenient geographical location. Additionally, the U.N., the Arab League, and NATO all backed efforts in Libya, which is not the case in Syria. As such, intervention in Syria is far riskier. Establishing a safe zone would be equally difficult. However, doing so would necessitate a U.S. military commitment, as Syria’s complex air defense systems would need to be disabled by way of force. Moreover, such involvement could also spur jihadist activity in Syria.
Consequences of Intervening Direct intervention poses numerous risks to the U.S. Arming the rebels could potentially prove very dangerous. Due to the fractious nature of the opposition, it would be impossible to predict whether the extremists of the regime would be the ones receiving the arms should the U.S. provide them. Consequences from U.S. intervention in Iraq in the 2000s and Afghanistan in the 1980s not only demonstrate
“It is likely an intervention would be viewed as ‘another American crusade in the Arab world.’”
the risks of arming the opposition, but also prove that doing so does not automatically ensure that the U.S. will have a significant influence, should the opposition come to power. Were the U.S. to liberate the Sunni majority, the consequences may be similar to those seen in Iraq, where the majority sheds the blood of the minority as revenge. Once Assad is gone, the country would likely divide along ethnic lines, rendering a smooth political transition to a new leader difficult. Such also brings up the question of who, in fact, would take power after Assad, as there is currently no clear oppositional leader. The U.S., however, should also be wary of the effects more American military intervention in the Middle East would have. It is likely such intervention would be viewed as “another American crusade in the Arab world,” as a New York Times article put it, prompting anti-American sentiment
City of Aleppo, center of heavy fighting in the conflict across the region and among terrorist groups. Thus, such a military move would not reflect well upon President Obama.
Consequences of Not Intervening Despite the numerous consequences of military intervention, non-intervention could likely be more catastrophic. Inaction could strengthen the Islamic extremist groups, many of which have ties to al-Qaeda, possibly resulting in a serious security threat to the U.S. Indeed, most of the arms that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided Syria
“Inaction could strengthen the Islamic extremist groups, many of which have ties to al-Qaeda, possibly resulting in a serious security threat to the U.S.”
with have fallen into the hands of extremists, as opposed to more secular rebel groups. Furthermore, without a no-fly zone, however, humanitarian organizations will likely not intervene in Syria due to the risk of air attacks. As the U.S. continues to stand back, Syrians are becoming increasingly resent· 23 ·
ful of the U.S. One of the largest risks of staying out of the conflict is that when Assad is toppled, the Syrians will turn their backs on the U.S due to the U.S.’s unwillingness to intervene, which could endanger its security and interests in the region. Turkey is also becoming more resentful of the U.S.’s inaction as thousands of refugees spill over the Syria-Turkey border. Melih Asik of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet denounced the U.S.’s “provocative stance and empty promises.” The risk of war destabilizing other countries in the region is particularly high in Lebanon, in which recent bombings have been linked to the Syrian conflict. The most obvious consequence of inaction, however, is the resultant continued bloodshed and rising casualty count. Syria’s future remains bleak. There appears to be no appealing or clear answer to the problem. The U.S. has legitimate reasons for not intervening, but such a course of action will have serious international implications. Can the U.S. stand by and witness the deaths of thousands more innocent lives, and can it risk losing an ally and destabilizing a region? C
Morocco’s Facebook Culture By Halie Craig I sit on my host sister’s bed in Rabat, Morroco, finishing my Arabic homework for the night as she rapidly types on her smart phone. She has earbuds in and is listening to Taylor Swift. Occasionally her phone will ring (her ringtone is “Where Have You Been” by Rihanna) and she answers within seconds. Her conversations are short, usually just for the purpose of coordinating a meet up, and then she resumes typing on her phone. However, she spends nearly all of her screen time (hours per day) connected to Facebook, messaging friends or posting status updates. She generally doesn’t sleep until four or five a.m. because she spends the night talking to friends online. This is not abnormal behavior for a teenager in Morocco. Although America’s Facebook use is widely acknowledged, it is somewhat surprising to see what a large role the social media site plays in the lives of the younger generation of Moroccans. Almost every teenager I met during my six-week stay in Morocco had a Facebook account that they checked more than once a day. (This number was obviously much higher for my host sister.) Although the actual percentage of
Moroccans with Facebook accounts is still relatively low (7.55% as of January 2011), those who do have a profile are very active on the site. One reason for this may be that Facebook is free as long as you have an Internet connection – and this is a reality for many Moroccans, especially with the sheer amount of Internet cafes in Morocco’s cities. In Morocco, Facebook is also an easy way to coordinate plans with friends and meet new people through an accessible and widely-used platform that doesn’t
“Facebook is also an indicator – a result – of a greater shift within Moroccan culture: a generational divide between youth and their parents.”
charge, making it a smart alternative to texting (which is pre-paid in Morocco and can become very expensive over time). But Facebook is also an indicator – a result – of a greater shift within Moroccan culture: a generational divide between youth and their parents. Facebook use has become a global phenomenon. Iceland, in fact, tops the charts in terms of Facebook penetration (number of Facebook users di24
vided by population) – about 66.6% of individuals living in Iceland have Facebook accounts, although the US has a significant lead in terms of total number of users. But there are also plenty of countries for which the Facebook trend is still catching on, predominantly among youth. This is especially prevalent in Morocco, where 81% of the country’s Facebook users are between the ages of 15 and 29. It’s no secret that social media has been playing an increasingly larger role in the lives of individuals across the world. If the effectiveness of social media during the Egyptian revolution and throughout the Arab Spring is any indication, it can also be quite a powerful tool. In fact, according to the January 2011 Arab Social Media Report released by the Dubai School of Government, the annual growth rate for Facebook uptake in the Arab world is a staggering 78%. As the numbers strongly suggest, Facebook is not only used as a medium through which to coordinate plans, but can also be very influential in terms of culture. It is important to note that my Moroccan host sister was a bit of an anomaly because she came from a wealthier Moroccan family. Her father works in politics, and she still travels to Paris every summer for vacation. But her experience with Facebook and attitudes toward Moroccan culture still, and not insignificantly, parallel
those of her peers and are worth examining in a global context. (Additionally, it is also noteworthy that Morocco has one of the greatest gaps between GDP and Facebook penetration, unlike many Arab countries: GDP per capita stands at $2,880, and Facebook penetration is 7.55%, compared to Lebanon, where a 7.55% Facebook penetration rate corresponds to a GDP per capita of $16,000.) Despite wealth disparities between individuals as well as countries, Facebook still has a large presence in the lives of the younger generations. This is a trend that not only
“In Morocco, 81% of the country’s Facebook users are between the ages of 15 and 29.” applies to Morocco, but the rest of the Arab world – overall, 75% of Facebook users in the Arab world are between the ages of 15 and 29. The large youth population also tends to have different ideas about social norms than their parents, and Facebook is simply one of the results of this in a globalized world. My host sister would often tell me, “I hate Morocco.” She refused to wear the hijab (the traditional headscarf), which is common among Moroccan girls but not required for many – there is still a very high number of girls that do not wear it. Once, when one of my American friends came back from the souk
with an intricate henna tattoo, my host sister called it disgusting and said she “hated henna.” My argument is not that she, nor her peers, are becoming “westernized,” which is term I have been careful not to use because it implies many things that are simply not true – for example, overall rejection of tradition, widespread support of democracy, and less importance placed on religion. But globalization does has the effect of spreading different ideas about culture, and my host sister’s lifestyle exhibited American as well as European influences. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when there is a divergence from certain customs and a very obvious understanding gap between generations, there is something disturbing about the potential repercussions of that, including a breakdown of the family structure or reversed cultural values. But what does this all have to do with Facebook? As previously stated, Facebook isn’t the cause of my host sister’s rejection of Moroccan culture, but it is an indicator of a generational divide within the country. For example, my host parents prayed, as is Islamic custom, every day. My host sister, on the other hand, very rarely fulfilled her daily prayer, which a required tenet of the Muslim faith. These small details add up to create a fuller picture of a disjointed Morocco, where the younger generation is more concerned with staying up to date on Facebook rather than joining their families for dinner. Increased social media use is an after-effect of a more connected world, in a sense, but it is also an
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indicator that the globalization of ideas has had cultural repercussions as well. But if this is happening in Morocco, has it already happened in the US, where Facebook is at 54.04% penetration? How has Facebook affected American culture, especially between generations? The answer may be that generational gaps in the US are not as pronounced because the age of Facebook users varies more when com-
“The annual growth rate for Facebook uptake in the Arab world is a staggering 78%.” pared to Morocco – 65% of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 44, with a relatively high 13% between 45 and 54. It is possible that this is due to an overall more technologically engaged culture – America was one of the global leaders in developing new technologies, and Facebook originated in the US. It is a much more common part of daily life, regardless of age, in America, especially given the commercialization of social media which has yet to become an equally effective profit-generating mechanism in the Arab world. Because of this, it may be more difficult to realize shifts in culture, and only over time will we be able to truly see the impact of Facebook culture in America and across the globe. C
Spain’s Case of ARTICLE TITLE Separation Anxiety by Maxwell Hummel
While our media spotlight shines on the economic situation in Greece, the county is far from being the only troubled member of the EU. Germany is being pressured to carry the entire Western economy on its shoulders, England’s economy is being brought down by a currency it doesn’t even use, and France is a veritable hotbed of cultural tension. And standing apart from all of these examples is the woeful case of Spain. It is a country with its fair share of economic issues; as of March 2012, nearly a quarter of its population was unemployed. Not even the 100€ billion in bailout money was enough to keep money in the Spanish banks; the system has been hemorrhaging depositors since the crisis began. And then there is the uniquely Spanish problem: the issue of Catalonia. Although certainly in part economic, the core of the issue is the question of what it means to be Spanish. Catalonia is the eastern-most community in Spain, with France and Andorra to the north and the Mediterranean to the East. Although the name
of the region might not be heard in American households, its capital, Barcelona, is certainly better known. The Spanish constitution has an interesting little provision in it, unlike anything found in America’s: “Catalonia” is defined in it as a nationality all its own, and as such, is granted the right to autonomy. This isn’t a random distinction either. The people of Catalonia and their fellow Spaniards to the west have a number of differences, principal among them the language. Over a third of the population of Catalonia uses the regional language of Catalan (also the name of the aforementioned nationality) more than they do Span-
“Catalonia” is defined in it as a nationality all its own, and as such, is granted the automatic right to autonomy. This isn’t a random distinction either.
ish. But the one characteristic of the region that has made it a thorn in the side of Spain’s federal government is that it wants out. For the past several years, there has been a vocal minority in the region advocating separatism from Spain. In the 2010 Catalan parliamentary election, the myriad political parties devoted to independence · 26 ·
drew a collective one-third of the vote. Furthermore, CiU, the party with the largest share of seats within the parliament, supports the idea of Catalonian independence, albeit less overtly. And since 2010 support has increased, with the Catalan independence protest drawing between five-hundred thousand to a million more participants in 2012 than it did it in 2010. Although the movement does not have any direct economic origins, the recent failures of Spain to ameliorate the public’s monetary troubles seem to have made the idea of a separate Catalan state all the more appealing. Every year, the University of Barcelona carries out a poll asking residents of the region on the issue of Catalan independence. In 2007, before the economic crisis began, around 32% of the population supported the notion of an independent Catalonia, with 51% against. The most recent poll, from 2011, give 41% for and only 23% against. That is to say, over the course of the various crises in Europe, the amount of people in Catalonia in opposition to the independence movement was halved. While the corresponding group of people in favor of such a movement has not correspondingly increased, the trend is evident: the citizens of Catalonia are less likely, as a whole, to consider themselves Spanish. The origins of this sense of iden-
tity can be found in the tricky politics of 20th century Spain. When Franco took control of the country in 1936 he instituted various cultural mandates in order to strengthen what he considered “true” Spanish culture. A component of this forbade the usage of non-Castilian Spanish, thus outlawing the Catalan language. This did not spell the end for the language, as its use continued, however a sense of resentment fostered amongst the Catalan people. The fact that the Spanish appeared to be the Catalan’s oppressors reinforced the fact that they were indeed separate nationalities. Finally, in 1978, when the Spanish Constitution confirmed this fact, people began wonder why
Will anything come of them? In Catalan’s case, probably not, given the authority the Spanish government seems to be exerting on the issue.
they were even part of the country in the first place. However, Spain certainly isn’t allowing a split in the country, and with good reason. Catalonia, as of 2008, held the highest GDP in Spain, with a GDP per capita comparable to that of more successful countries such as the U.K. and Austria. In these times, loss of
In 2007, before the whole crisis began, around 32% of the population supported the notion of an independent Catalonia, with 51% against. The most recent poll, from 2011, give 41% for and only 23% against. that much economic power would be disastrous for the already floundering Spain. In an effort to keep the Spaain’s economic powerhouse a part of Spain, the national courts have disputed the meaning of the word “nation” found in the Constitution describing the region and despite requests from Catalan government officials, no official referendum has been held on either this issue of independence nor a constitutional amendment granting further autonomy, especially more economic autonomy. And as relations in Spain become tenser, other similarly afflicted countries are undergoing identity crises of their own. Scotland has shown a collective interest in separating from the United Kingdom, and unlike Catalonia, has an official referendum scheduled for 2014 to vote on independence. Last
year, the small Italian town of Filettino declared itself an independent principality, going so far as to print their own money bedecked with the face of the mayor. More akin to the Catalan movement is the Flemish movement in Brussels: A linguistically and culturally diverse people hoping to nationalize in order to preserve said language and culture. It is decidedly ironic that while in an organization so designed to reinforce the bonds of Europe as the E.U., these tensions have only strengthened. Will anything come of them? In Catalan’s case, probably not, given the authority the Spanish government seems to be exerting on retaining Catalonia. But it does highlight the E.U.’s shortcomings; even within one country, cultural differences can wear at the stability of government.
Close-Call Reelection: Beginning of theTITLE End? ARTICLE by Avivah Hotimsky On October 7, 2012, Hugo Chavez unsurprisingly won his third election as president of Venezuela. Few disputed the election results; most believed that the only corruption arose from Chavez’s abuse of the country’s resources to benefit his voters. At a superficial level, the election seems mundane and unimportant. However, at a deeper level, this election may be the most important election in recent history. In an election where Chavez poured resources into the lower class, a critical group of voters, Chavez won by a mere eleven points, the slimmest margin out of all three elections he has won. More importantly, Chavez saw a strong, united opposition for the first time.
In an election where Chavez poured resources into the lower class, a critical group of voters, Chavez won by a mere eleven points, the slimmest margin out of all three elections he has won.
Henrique Capriles Radonski, a Venezuelan born and educated political
figure, led a strong, unique campaign that allowed him to collect 44% of the electorate . While Chavez spent months personally attacking Capriles,
Capriles ran a positive campaign and refused to personally attack Chavez. Instead, Chapriles focused on the failed policies of the Chavez presidency and the need for reform. Through discussing issues such as Chavez’s failed education system, restrictive economic policies, and harmful foreign policy, Capriles moved past rhetoric in order to run a clean, meaningful campaign. Even in his concession speech, a speech where Capriles could have blamed Chavez for corruption within the election, Capriles focused on the issues and the future, pledging to continue to fight for Venezuela. Capriles’ clean campaign and em· 28 ·
phasis on policy allowed him to unite a strong base during these elections, so now it is important for him to keep this base alive. Other opponents of Chavez, such as his 2006 opponent, Manuel Rosales, have almost entirely disappeared from the political scene in Venezuela. Thus, there are two possible paths for Venezuela’s future: Capriles could use his popularity to remain an important political figure, or Capriles could lose all power and Chavez and his party could remain in power for years to come. In the latter situation, there would be a slight exaggeration of the status quo. Chavez would remain the political leader of Venezuela until his death, and there would likely be a peaceful shift to his predecessor. Despite Chavez’s post-election words about improving dialogue and discourse within the government, in this model, Venezuela would likely continue its current policies. Poverty would continue to decrease, yet government corruption would increase.
Henrique Capriles Radonski, a Venezuelan born and educated political figure, led a strong, unique campaign that allowed him to collect 44% of the electorate .
Additionally, inflation would continue to grow at a rapid rate, posing a threat to the economy. The main foreseeable difficulty is the link between foreign policy and the economy. As the United States continues to push against Chavez and his policies, the US and its allies could continue to march against Venezuela and Chavez’s regime. Until now, many sanctions against Venezuela have been highly ineffective; Venezuela continues to see economic
Despite Chavez’s post-election words about improving dialogue and discourse within the government, in this model, Venezuela would likely continue its current policies. Poverty would continue to decrease, yet government corruption would increase.
growth and oil production. However, if the US leadership ever decides to seriously revisit sanctions, there could potentially be crippling economic effects. To be effective, the sanctions would have to effectively target the oil industry as, “Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 95% of export earnings, about 40% of federal budget revenues, and around 12% of GDP,” as reported by the CIA World Factbook .
The difficulty with any serious sanctions targeting the oil industry, though, is the reality that Venezuela is one of the US’s largest oil providers. Therefore, if Capriles does not continue to fill his role as Chavez’s main competition, the Venezuelan status quo will not change. While it may be easy for Capriles to lose power, if he does stay in power, there could be large changes within the Venezuelan government. If Capriles is able to keep his base excited, there may be opportunity to gain power soon. Recently, Chavez has been struggling in his fight with cancer. Although he continues to reassure Venezuela that he is in fine health to lead the nation, many others, including Former Brazilian President, Lula, believe it is time for him to prepare a successor. While it would certainly be beneficial for Chavez to follow Lula’s model in his successful transfer of power to Dilma Rousseff, there is no strong evidence that Chavez has chosen his successor, leaving the
position open to anyone who can take it. Therefore, if Capriles is able to keep his widespread support, he may become Chavez’s successor before he · 29 ·
finishes his term. However, as William Neuman of the New York Times writes, “The key to success is to get up quickly and keep going.” In order for this possibility to become a reality, first, Capriles needs to focus on winning reelection of his home state, Miranda. Currently, Capriles faces tough opposion from Elias Jaua, Chavez’s well-known former vice-president. Capriles has continually alluded to his work in Miranda as an example of how he would be the best president. Thus, a loss in Miranda would leave supporters in other states wondering if he is the best man for the presidency. Capriles can take the path to power, but it will require both the fall of Chavez and a success in his reelection in Miranda.
Although he continues to reassure Venezuela that he is in fine health to lead the nation, many others, including former Brazilian-President, Lula, believe it is time for him to prepare for a successor.
Following the election, there are multiple paths that Venezuela can take. However, only time will tell what the result will be. C
FARC versus Colombia: Peace on the Horizon? ARTICLE TITLE by Wing Lam Cheung On a cold October afternoon, representatives of the government of Colombia and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia touched down in Oslo, Norway, for a long-anticipated peace talk. Upon arrival, the representatives were quickly escorted to a secret negotiation location. Norwegian officials have barred the media from covering any of the exchanges between Colombian government officials and FARC delegates. Among the few things that the media is certain about is the the continuation of violence between the two groups, as evidenced by the FARC killing of several Colombian soldiers. The lack of transparency and tranquility, however, has not stopped growing speculation about the implications of this round of peace talks for the cocaine industry.
Among the few things that the media is certain about is the the continuation of violence between the two groups, as evidenced by the FARC killing of several Colombian soldiers.
It is widely suspected that among the topics discussed will be the disarmament of FARC and land reforms. The Colombian government has struggled with quelling rebel movements for decades. FARC is only one of the many insurgencies fueling intense violence that has ravaged the country. True peace with FARC would allow the government to focus on combating other armed groups. Peace with FARC may also allow the government to gain control of the extensive drug trade within its borders. Members of the FARC, on the other
hand, are seeking land reforms and concessions to their Marxist ideals. Much of FARC membership is peasants who seek land reforms that would improve their access to arable land. Even though in 2011 Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos put forth the Victims and Land Restitution Law, FARC demand more aggressive land reform as they criticize this law for its inability to overcome rightist movements against land redistribution and government inefficiency in fairly redistributing the land. The half-century old armed conflict between the Colombian government 路 30 路
and FARC has led to the death of countless civilians and government officials in Colombia. In light of the killing of FARC leader Alfonso Cano in 2011, the
Even though in 2011 Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos put forth the Victims and Land Restitution Law, FARC demand more aggressive land reform. FARC demand more aggressive land reform.
approximately 50 percent decline in membership and the recent decision to end kidnappings, many suspect that FARC may be in a position weaker than where it stood in previous peace talks and thus, more compliant with the demands of the government. One extreme scenario that could occur as a result of this negotiation is the complete disbandment of FARC. While highly unlikely, the breakup of FARC would reshape the geopolitics of the international cocaine trade. In Colombia, FARC is the main drug trade organization that arbiters of the cocaine industry, which produces approximately 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States. FARC reportedly supplies Mexican drug trade organizations (DTOs) with cocaine. Unsurprisingly, the robust
trade in cocaine has been one of the biggest sources of revenue for FARC. If FARC were to dissolve, especially without providing any clear instruction as to whom its monopoly on the cocaine industry will be transferred, then smaller guerilla, paramilitary or DTOs will most likely compete with one another for control over the industry. Such chaos could lead to escalation in violence among these groups. In addition, squabbling among these groups could interrupt the flow of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and ultimately to the United States. An interruption in the cocaine trade could have dire implications for law enforcement in the long run as they have the potential to force DTOs thriving on the trade to seek alternative illicit means of income that may incur more violence. In reality, however, FARC is much more likely to make cessations to only some and not all of the demands of the government. FARC still has a considerably large membership and access to military capabilities. The struggle between the two sides also
In Colombia, FARC is the main drug trade organization that arbiters of the cocaine industry, which produces approximately 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States.
has profound and intense historical roots. Since the 1960s, the Colombian government and the FARC have tried for to reach a peace agreement. Thus far, nothing has prevailed.
Yet another possible outcome would be the continuation of the status quo. Since their founding in 1964, FARC has attempted to put into power a Marxist regime. Conflict with other armed groups in Colombia has been a major distraction to FARC. In fact, it has been argued that combat with other armed groups has compelled FARC to seek additional funding by partaking in the drug trade and the kidnappings for which they have become infamous. There is also a chance that the talks would go awry and violence would escalate. As indicated by the failure of past peace talks, the relationship between the Colombian government and FARC is complicated and fragile. An increase in violence against government forces would likely spur FARC drug activities, especially now that the group has publically announced that they will no longer kidnap and hold hostages for 路 31 路
ransom. While this scenario is unlikely given that the desire for peace is mutual from both sides, the lack of ceasefire and the killing of five Colombian soldiers by FARC amidst this negotiation do not brood well for the prospect of real peace.
Conflict with other armed groups in Colombia has been a major distraction to FARC. In fact, it has been argued that combat with other armed groups has compelled FARC to seek additional funding by partaking in the drug trade and the kidnappings for which they have become infamous.
As the dialogue between the two sides in Oslo continues in Havana, Cuba in mid-November, tension remains high. Going forward, both the government and FARC will have to be very careful about maintaining a relatively low level of fighting as they continue to negotiate. They and the international community will also have to start to properly recognize the severity of the impact that this round of negotiation could have on the cocaine trade not only in Colombia but also abroad in places like Mexico and the United States. C
Dear readers of The Consul,
As Asia grows in economic and geopolitical influence, its regional affairs will grow more important for the rest of the world. Given the events of the last month in Asia – primarily the Chinese power transition and the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands (and the Gangnam Style craze), we felt it appropriate to focus on the continent in this issue.
China’s growing influence was evident even in the American election, with both candidates taking shots at China’s trade and monetary policies during the closing weeks of the campaign. The effects of China’s rise also have had massive impacts on its East Asian neighbors. Elsewhere on the continent, troubles in the Middle East escalated in Syria and the Gaza Strip. With the increasing global impact of Asian events, an awareness of the continent’s role has become essential in understanding events elsewhere. As always, readers of the Consul can continue to receive original content from our writing staff on a daily basis on our website, www.theconsul.org. The print edition of the Consul will return in the new year with a review of world affairs over the holiday season. Michael Luo Editor-in-Chief
The International Affairs Association University of Pennsylvania