The CSS Blog Network

China, a Superpower. Really?

A Shaolin Warrior, courtesy of Sven Laqua/flickr

Last week, my colleague Kaisa Schreck wrote an excellent blog post on China. In it she argued that China had already saved the world economy and that it was bound to rule the region if not the world in the near future. Forbes’ ranking of Hu Jintao as the most powerful man in the world seemed to validate this assessment.

I personally think that China is lacking one key element to become a superpower: moral gravitas and appeal. And if we look at history, every powerful region or country has not only been powerful economically or militarily, but also “morally”.

Let’s look at the Roman Empire first. The empire ruled the whole Mediterranean region for centuries and its capital, Rome, had more than one million inhabitants,  a significant number 2000 years ago. The Empire was not only powerful because it could crush its enemies, it was also morally powerful. By taking up Greek philosophy and focusing on philosophical and scientific education, the Romans quickly surpassed their enemies in thought and morality. The arts had a powerful place in Roman civilization and it shined from the shores of Portugal to Iran. Its values of citizenship, arts and philosophy were not only adopted by the Roman elites, but also by many of the neighboring elites. » More

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

A new ISN Insights week starts today, photo: kh1234567890/flickr

Last week ISN Insights examined:

This week we’ll be looking at the New START treaty, Hong Kong’s status as a democratic enclave in the PRC, Obama’s India visit, the complex and increasingly fraught Pakistan-India-USA triangle, and sanitation, in honor of World Toilet Day on Friday, 19 November.

Make sure to check back each day for the newest ISN Insights package. And if you’re an active Twitter or Facebook user, look us up and become a follower!

Polio is Back

Mothers and babies waiting in line for a Polio vaccination; photo: hdptcar/flickr

A mere two weeks after World Polio Day, a fast moving polio outbreak has struck three central African countries. The first confirmed re-appearance of the disease was reported on 4 November in the Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville), but the disease then quickly spread to both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Within a week, the UN reported 226 infections and 104 deaths, with numbers rising quickly.

Polio is a contagious viral disease that attacks the body’s nervous system. Left untreated, polio can cause paralysis and death. It strikes children and young adults of both sexes equally. Usually, however, less than 10 percent of cases actually develop symptoms, and only 1 percent of these remain permanently paralyzed. This particular outbreak, meanwhile, is proving past medical statistics wrong.

According to the joint communiqué released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the rate of mortality for the current outbreak is alarmingly high. This has spurred the government in Brazzaville and numerous international agencies to launch a large-scale emergency vaccination campaign, which is to begin today. The vaccination drive is supposed to provide vaccinations to 3 million children and adults in central Africa.

Over the last decade, the number of polio cases reported annually had ground to a virtual standstill. Nigeria, for example, long considered to be Africa’s polio hot spot, had an impressive 98 percent drop in cases since 2009. International health authorities are therefore still musing on the causes of last month’s outbreak. It seems that the immunity of the children, teenagers and young adults in the region may have been lower than expected. Furthermore, today’s virus seems to be of a relatively new Indian strain that was first found in Angola in 2007 and which now slowly found its way further north.

Although the current outbreak may be considered an unexpected setback in what can otherwise be considered a fairly successful fight against the disease, we must never become complacent. As promised time and time again, polio must be made history.

The ISN holds an excellent set of resources on infectious diseases, epidemics, pandemics, and disease control. In addition, the ISN Digital Library also offers a comprehensive list of international health organizations.

Deportation Mania

Leaving Switzerland behind bars, image: Nicolas Macgowan/flickr

Zurich Airport, 18 March 2010. A Nigerian immigrant, convicted of drug dealing died shortly before boarding the plane on which he was to be deported to his home country. As a consequence, deportation of illegal immigrants was stopped. Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Nigeria became strained.

Of the 1800 Nigerians who immigrated to Switzerland last year, only 1 percent were granted asylum. The rest are asked to leave the country. Those who refuse to move are deported forcefully.

Last week the Swiss government announced that a memorandum of understanding  with Nigeria had been signed, allowing for “special flights” to be resume on 1 January 2011. A Nigerian state secretary insisted that Nigeria agreed “voluntarily” and his Swiss counterpart talked of a “win-win-situation.”

What’s the deal? » More

Saving the World, Ruling the Earth?

China: Where modernity is a mantra, photo: Trey Ratcliff/flickr

China’s rise to the center stage of world affairs has been much faster and more multifaceted than anyone expected.

The Chinese themselves seem to have been taken aback by their new-found might, and although prophesies about China’s future dominance should be taken with a whole spoonful of salt (a lot can still go wrong), a deep confidence is permeating the country. And it seems like the rest of the world is finally taking note.

I wrote a short piece in October 2008 for the Finnish Business and Policy Council (EVA) about what I thought would be the geopolitical ramifications of the financial crisis, in its very early stages at the time. America, as the epicenter of the crisis, was shocked into a state of socio-political and economic self-denial and panic that was given tangible expression in last week’s midterm elections. In many of the individual races the anger and vitriol was directed at the great ‘new’ menace- China. In the meantime a real and perceived shift to the East has taken place. It is only beginning to take shape, but its effects are already being felt. » More

Page 3 of 5