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Easing One-Child Policy May Be Too Late

Poster promoting the one-child policy, from Zhongdian, China. Image: Flickr.

In an attempt to mitigate a near-certain demographic future of rapid aging, shrinking labor force and critical gender imbalance, the Chinese government has adjusted its one-child policy. The decision demonstrates that, irrespective of a nation’s politico-economic system, governments cannot avoid demography’s juggernaut consequences. This mid-course correction in population policy will have marginal effect as China is aging at a much faster pace than occurred in other countries. This, along with a shrinking workforce and critical gender imbalance, will increasingly tax the government.

The new policy, set at the provincial level, will permit couples to have two children if either the husband or wife is an only child. Under the previous policy, two children were allowed for ethnic minorities, rural families whose firstborn is a daughter, and couples with both spouses as only children.

China instituted its one-child policy in the late 1970s because it feared that its rapidly growing population placed an untenable burden on economic growth and improving standards of living. At the start of the 1970s, China’s fertility rate was above five children per couple and its population was growing at more than 2 percent per year, adding more than 20 million Chinese annually. If the demographic growth of the 1970s had persisted, China would perhaps have added 400 million people more to its current population of 1.39 billion. » More

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Russia’s Choices in the North Caucasus after the Attacks in Volgograd

Trolleybus torn to pieces by the explosion in Volgograd. Image: Wikipedia.

Explosions in Volgograd (29 and 30 December 2013), as a result of which 34 people died, shocked Russian society and rekindled the debate on methods of combating terrorism. Some Russian politicians, experts and journalists stress that “liberals” are to blame, meaning those who want to restrict the police forces and special services. Others simply point to the incompetence of the authorities in the sphere of combating terrorist threats. Among the first proposed actions were stiffer penalties for terrorists (including the death penalty), and the restriction on the right of the media to publish information about terrorists and their activities. A public discussion about the nature of Islam began again. Some columnists try to fight the stereotype that terrorism is an inherent feature of this religion and its followers from the Russian North Caucasus. However, there are also opposing voices, which influence the growth of xenophobia among ethnic Russians, and hostility towards migrants from the North Caucasus republics. » More

Thailand: Conflict Alert

Yingluck Shinawatra at the 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Image: Wikimedia.

The campaign by anti-government protesters to derail the 2 February election raises prospects of widespread political violence, and scope for peaceful resolution is narrowing. Protests may aim to provoke a military coup, or encourage a judicial coup. If protesters succeed in their bid to delay the poll and replace the elected caretaker government with an appointed council, others who demand to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed franchise are likely to resist. Competing Thai elites – with mass backing – disagree fundamentally about how political power should be acquired and exercised. The election, and the opposition to it, crystallises the dilemma in reaching a new consensus on Thailand’s political order: will government be legitimised by voters or by traditional institutions such as the monarchy and the military? » More

Think Again Before Exploiting the Arctic’s Resources – Where’s the Infrastructure?

ARCTIC OCEAN – The Canadian Coast Guard

Photo: U.S. Geological Survey/flickr.

Climate change is not an ideology, as some would have us believe – it is an existential fact.  Greenland’s ice cap is melting up to four times faster than it was two decades ago, and if current predictions hold true, by mid-century the Arctic’s seas will be navigable in the summertime. This probability may frighten climate change specialists, but it is good news to those who want to access the High North’s once inaccessible resources (oil, minerals and gas), or to rely upon its shorter and therefore cheaper shipping routes. Indeed, the burgeoning interest of governments and investors in the Arctic guarantees that for better (economic development) and worse (oil spills, shipping accidents, and cultural dislocation), the human footprint will grow exponentially in the region. For those who are ready to kick-start this 21st century ‘gold rush,’ however, here’s an inconvenient question – where’s the infrastructure that is going to support it?

First, let’s begin by stating the obvious – compared to the rest of the world, the broader Arctic region still has almost no infrastructure and what little exists is expensive. Canada’s per-capita transport and communications costs, for example, are 36% higher in the Northwest Territories and 160% higher in Nunavut than in the country as a whole. These costs, driven as they are by the still-extreme climate and extended transport routes, will continue to turn near- and mid-term expectations of large-scale wealth and development into fool’s gold. » More

New Threats in Africa Mean New Questions for UN Peacekeeping: Interview with Major General Patrick Cammaert

Kitgum IDP camp from the air, Uganda

A camp of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Kitgum, Uganda.

New types of UN peacekeeping brigades could compromise the United Nations’ basic principle of impartiality and put UN personnel, their families, and other organizations at risk, said Major General Patrick Cammaert, the former military advisor to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and former Eastern Division Commander to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Cammaert said that although the UN’s first “intervention brigade” helped the Congolese army defeat the M23 rebel group in early November, “there are a lot of questions to be raised before we can say this is now the recipe for the future.” » More

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