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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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Why THAAD is Good For Nothing

in Asia/Diplomacy/Security/US by
thaad_missle_test

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is once again in the news in South Korea, the US, China and around the world. The missile system is capable of connecting with and destroying a ballistic missile in its descent and therefore functions as a last chance defense against nuclear weapons attacks. Given the actions of North Korea that have also been taking up newsprint since the beginning of this year, it is unsurprising that the US would now be more public in its calls for installing the system here in South Korea. The US has been pushing for THAAD to be installed in South Korea for years and intensifies those calls whenever the North conducts a nuclear weapons related test. To this point however not much progress has ever been made in finalizing a deal to have the US bring in this advanced missile defense system made by Lockheed Martin. It is difficult to believe that despite the official position of both Washington and Seoul that there have been no official discussions between the two nations on placing THAAD. In a recent visit to Seoul, Secretary of State John Kerry told US troops in Yongsan that “we’re talking about THAAD and…

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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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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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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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Bringing Football to Asia

in Asia/Business/Europe by
manchester united china fans

Chinese president Xi Jinping has set his country’s national football team three targets to aim for: qualify for the FIFA World Cup, host it, and win it. Football has even been made compulsory in national schools, and projects for the construction of sports grounds have been passed swiftly to ensure the country can achieve its hat trick. As amusing as it may sound, Xi is by no means in the minority when he expresses his obsession and hopes for the sport. The hype over football has reached new heights, especially since the commercial success of January’s Asian Cup, a strong indicator of the game’s popularity across the continent of 4 billion. When the national teams aren’t playing however, the majority of attention is given to overseas European football rather than local teams. Worldwide interest has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half due to weekly coverage in mass media and on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, connecting fans on both national and international levels to these teams. But why is European football especially popular in Asia? For the English Premier League alone there are an estimated 820 million supporters in Asia, according to sports research company Repucom.…

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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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Can We Deploy THAAD Now?

in Asia/Security/Technology/US by

South Korean defense officials let out a collective groan on May 9, 2015, as North Korea reportedly conducted a successful test-fire of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). International news websites and security blogs were inundated with photos released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of a proud Kim Jong-Un personally overseeing the test launches. The dramatic photos also show the moment the SLBM exited the water. Bukgeuksung-1 (북극성-1), presumably the name of the missile, is seen painted on the side. Though still in its nascent stages, if the reports are accurate, an operational SLBM is alarming for a number of reasons. First, it shows the speed of development of North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts were aware that North Korea was working on SLBMs, but not many suspected that flight tests would be conducted so soon. With each incremental step, North Korea’s missiles will become harder to track, detect, and intercept. Second, it shows that Pyongyang has no intentions of slowing down, let alone changing the course of its policy of belligerence and brinkmanship. Testing the SLBM violates at least four UN Security Council Resolutions (1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094). Lastly, North Korea is one step closer to a…

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Dragon Ready to Forge Ahead: Will China overtake US?

in Asia/Economics by

The Chinese juggernaut is expected to overtake the American eagle by 2021 in terms of GDP, according to The Economist’s latest estimates (Aug 2014). In fact, China already outpaced the U.S. as the world’s largest manufacturing power in 2010. Since then, it has been further widening its lead, according to the 2013 UN research. Notwithstanding a small dent in its recent growth trend line, partly owing to a slowdown in export demand from key markets (e.g. U.S. and EU), China has been able to achieve its growth target of 7.5% in the second quarter of 2014. Yet a fleet of naysayers still do not believe these numbers indicate an upcoming shift in the world’s power distribution and, in the face of cognitive dissonance, cling to a weakly-grounded belief that United States of America continues to be the one and only hegemon at least until they rest in peace. Stiff opposition to an impending appearance of Chinese hegemony is predicated on two assumptions. The first one is that China cannot sustain its astonishing growth and is soon doomed to fall from its grace. The other is that even if China is able to surpass the U.S. in the economic area, the…

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