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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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Economics

Neo-Dynastic Ascension in the East: the Paradox of the Pacific and the Rise of Modern Empires in an Ancient World

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics/Politics/Security/US by
asian conflicts

Bearing witness to today’s Asia summons to mind an almost classic resurgence of sovereignties, seemingly clashing over that ageless title of Greatest Empire of Them All. Although the warmongering skirmishes of old are not the tactic of choice among these modern kingdoms, the dynastic intensity of ancient times has found a new ascendency in the Far East.

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After COP21: Mexico In-Between Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation

in Academic/Economics/Latin America/Politics by
cop21 mexican president pena nieto

Climate change is perhaps one of the thorniest economic and social problems of our time. This is not unrelated to the fact that in many countries, the forms of energy that power economic growth are those with the highest concentrations of carbon –oil and coal. It has been argued that it only takes three economies – the United States, China and India – to produce more than 40% of all global greenhouse gas emissions [1]. After the recent UN Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) nonetheless, energy policies have quickly become priority issues in many developing countries’ agendas for a number of reasons, ranging from new technological developments and economic benefits to above all, energy security and climate change mitigation. A number of technical and economic challenges are likely to emerge in the near future, given the widespread development of fossil fuel resources and their incompatibility with decarbonised energy systems, now being adopted across many of these regions to mitigate global climate change.

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Cyclical Failure – Economic Crisis and Commodities in Latin America

in Economics/Latin America/Politics by
chuquicamata chile mining

Despite a great deal of discussion on the information economy in recent years, (much of it useful and much of it overhyped,) the actual world economy’s health is still reliant on raw materials, which is expressed in their prices. While in parts of the developed world the recent fall in commodity prices has been referred to as the equivalent of a tax break, in countries that are heavily dependent on commodity exports, calamity is a better reference point. The primary issue here is dependence. Many developed nations also produce raw materials in great quantities, but their economies are comparatively diverse. When a nation’s basket of exports is dominated by just a few commodities while its import basket is varied, economic crises are more likely to occur.

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Moves to a Service-Based Economy is Likely China’s Catch-22

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics/Human Rights by
Chinese economic trouble

The achievements of President Xi Jinping’s short duration in Britain are the first steps of what China hopes to be the path to becoming a fully-developed country. Proclaimed a “golden era” in relations between the two nations by Prime Minister David Cameron, China views Britain as a “great platform from which China can go global,” according to head of Chatham House’s Robin Niblett. Indeed, as China seeks to shift its economy from an export-based to a service-based economy and to propel the yuan into an internationally-traded currency that could potentially rival the dollar, yen, and Euro, access to Britain’s financial markets is viewed as critically important after the conspicuous blockade from the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the United States. Outside of Hong Kong, as President Xi told the British Parliament, the United Kingdom is the leading offshore trading center. As The Economist notes, “The Bank of England was the first G7 central bank to sign a swap agreement with China’s central bank.” Offshore yuan-denominated bonds were recently sold in the UK by Chinese commercial banks and on October 20th, China sold its first sovereign bond worth over $4 billion in London. What this accomplishes is that it lends an air of credibility…

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Beacons Over Mars

in Economics/Middle East/Politics/Technology/US by
Kizilgaha beacon tower

Lets begin with a question: How is trade created? At first an intellectual being defines a phenomenon and then that person (or maybe someone else who has somehow acquired that knowledge) generates an interest for it. Spontaneously that interest defines a need which ends up with an exchange. The difficulty of this process can vary; sometimes rocket science is required to define a phenomenon but sometimes it is as easy as lighting a beacon. For instance the Silk Road of the ancient world was not even a leveled sand road but rather several beacons lit by the locals to invite trade caravans. As a result goods, science and culture were transported to both ends of the known world, forming our past. It is of course a fact of history that trade has not only created immeasurable wealth but also caused devastating wars. Some countries boosted their intellectual capacity and flourished whereas some regions ended up covered by sand plagued by chronic instability. That’s why we read about geopolitics in our daily lives. History gave us a great example when colonialism overturned the existing Central Asian and Middle Eastern status-quo causing the wealth of European Empires’ to be revolutionary in every aspect at the expensive of…

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The Precariat – When Insecurity Dominates

in Economics/Politics by

Only one in four people in the work force worldwide have a secure job with a permanent contract. The remaining three-quarters are employed “on temporary or short-term contracts, working informally without contract, self-employed, or in unpaid family jobs,” according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). As a graduate student, finding this out has done nothing to allay fears of becoming gainfully employed after graduating, although quite frankly, and perhaps more depressingly, the findings are not exactly surprising. The post-crisis era has seen a marginal recovery in some economies, but job creation is slow and the actual jobs being created are only designed for part-time employment. Temporary jobs, albeit inherently insecure, are not all bad; they are the first jobs people go into after graduating to get a foothold in their desired career. There used to be the expectation of guaranteed progress towards a more permanent position. These expectations are now laughable. The financial crisis has forced people who were laid off from these permanent positions to pick up whatever odd jobs they could find to support themselves—a step down from which it is still hard to recover from even now. This lack of security, combined with the lack of a…

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China in Latin America: Sister Country or Neo-Colonialist?

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics/Latin America by
Rafael Correa Yi Xinping

Ever since the end of the 15th century, Latin America has been seen by outsiders overwhelmingly as a place rich in natural resources. In the 21st century, the most recent outsider, China, is as hungry for its raw materials as any other previous power. It needs Argentinian agricultural products for its fisheries and pig farms to feed its growing middle class. It needs Bolivian and Peruvian iron and copper to continue building its manufacturing industries, and Ecuadorian and Venezuelan oil to fuel them. Past encounters with foreign powers in Latin America reveal a patter of resource extraction and economic dependency that benefited primarily the outside power and the local elite. Some, most notably Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in the region say that relations with China will be different, that China is a partner and a sister country, not an imperialist outside power. These optimists are hoping for a reinvention of the relationship between resource hungry outside powers and natural resource rich nations in the region. Unfortunately, Chinese recent forays into the region appear to be mirroring this tragic historical pattern.

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The Business of Death

in Asia/Business/Economics/Politics by

The Chinese life insurance market has grown exponentially since the start of the millennium. Now the fifth largest life insurance market globally, sales have risen from 98 billion yuan in 2000 to 994 billion yuan in the first half of 2014. What perhaps makes this feat more impressive is not only the speed at which the market has expanded, but also the success of being able to market such a product in a culture where discussing death used to be completely taboo. To understand what exactly happened here, we need to rewind the clock a bit, and add a little contextual color. Just as the phrase “to have a good life” can mean multiple things, “a good death” is equally as ambiguous. In the west, Christian cultures in particular view death as a promise (or threat) of an afterlife, depending on how you act during your earth-bound existence. In China, where Confucian values are heavily embedded into culture, the subject of death is rarely discussed mainly due to its ambiguity, and it is almost always negatively portrayed. As if mystifying it wasn’t enough, Taoist beliefs measure how good a death is based on its timing and nature—anything other than dying…

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Anger Across the Water: Parallel Trading in Hong Kong

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics by

The conflict between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people doesn’t seem to have an end in any sense. After the influential pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong, another protest against Mainland Chinese traders buying up goods to make a profit back home took place recently, and is still going on at the time of writing. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents have gathered to demonstrate against visitors from Mainland China. Hong Kong people are angry with these so-called “parallel traders,” who come to Hong Kong to stock up on lower-priced goods, including food items, luxury goods and electronics only to sell the goods for a profit across the border while dodging tariffs. The outrage has also spread to normal tourists, shoppers, cross-border buses and passersby with suitcases and trolleys from Mainland China. Social media has been awash with videos showing the activists attacking normal visitors from Mainland China, including old people and children, causing great rage and inciting another round of war online between Hong Kong people and Mainlanders. Parallel trading in Hong Kong has a long history. The number of parallel traders from Mainland China grows each year and the problem has become even more serious since 2008, when tainted supplies…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

in Asia/Economics/Human Rights/Politics by

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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