Global Perspective


  • Angola’s oil-dependent economy may spell trouble for 2017 vote

    April 01, 2016 07:41 SINCE the end of Angola’s long civil war (1975-2002), oil production in the country has rapidly increased. Oil revenues alone injected an estimated $470 billion into Angolan state coffers between 2002 and 2014. But the recent drop in oil prices has put significant pressure on the country’s finances, writes a World Review expert. Whether President Jose Eduardo dos Santos can maintain stability will hinge on other sectors, such as mining and agriculture, picking up the slack. A significant portion of the oil money the government received was used in massive infrastructure programs, some of them under China’s “Angola model,” where in exchange for low-interest loans, Luanda would grant Chinese companies preferential rights in oil and mining exploration projects. The number and privileges of civil servants also grew quickly, as state structures bloated and public expenditure rocketed. These “golden years” would also see the rise of a new national bourgeoisie, mostly political appointees, who adopted a relatively ostentatious lifestyle. This contrasted starkly with the living conditions for the majority of the population, who had to make do under much more difficult circumstances. Members of the political opposition were among the beneficiaries of the government largesse, a factor that contributed to the end of hostilities. However, despite the huge sums flowing into the country’s budget, President dos Santos’s regime made little effort to diversify the economy, which continued to depend on petrodollars. As a result, the dos Santos administration has been forced to significantly reduce public expenditure. Foreign reserves have decreased from $37 billion in December 2013 to $22.3 billion now. During the post-war “golden years,” Angola’s population saw their daily lives continuously improve. Now, despite the government’s use of subsidies to try to keep store shelves stocked with essentials, supplies have become limited. Another challenge for the government is the depreciation of the country’s currency, the kwanza, which has lost about 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since the summer of 2014. This is likely to cause difficulties throughout 2016, as Angola imports 80 percent of its fuel and consumer goods needs. Currency restrictions are hurting foreign investments and business owners, as capital repatriation and payment operations become increasingly difficult. More and more Angolans are being forced to resort to the black market, where the kwanza is worth 200 percent less than the official rate. Taking this challenging economic and social context into account, and with elections scheduled for 2017, 2016 will not be an easy year for the Angolan government. But as history shows, President dos Santos, who has been in office since 1979, has managed to survive challenges from his enemies, political opponents and even members of his own party. He has kept Angola relatively stable since the end of the civil war, making the country an exception in the region. Mr. dos Santos is known for his moderate approach in dealing with rivals, both outside and inside his constituency. As a consequence, the main opposition parties are not expected to encourage violent street demonstrations against the government. However, the increased cost of living, further worsened by budget cuts and a wage freeze in the public sector, is already hitting a significant portion of the population, including Angola’s emerging middle class. Access to staple foods – such as rice, oil, sugar and maize flour – is becoming a major issue in some provinces, including Cabinda, Benguela and Namibe. Violent incidents in supermarkets and storehouses have been on the rise. The economic downturn has also affected public health conditions. The number of cases of cholera, malaria and yellow fever in Luanda’s slums have increased, a consequence of the disruption in garbage collection and water sanitation systems. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    World Review Expert
    Publication Date: 
    Fri, 2016-04-01 05:00

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  • Central Europe is unlikely to relapse into authoritarian rule

    March 31, 2016 12:04 RECENT political developments in Hungary and Poland have been interpreted as portending a reversal of westernization. This perception is wrong, writes World Review Expert Ignacy Morawski. It is true that the region appears headed for institutional turbulence that could foster growing political and economic volatility. But a more serious upheaval is virtually precluded by the region’s strong middle classes, vigorous private sector and pressure from partners in the European Union and NATO. The post-communist countries of Central Europe were once perceived as exemplary models of transformation. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia swiftly weaned themselves off central planning, introduced democratic institutions and made huge strides in economic development – a process that culminated in NATO and EU membership. As a group, these countries have been more successful in adopting liberal democracy and free markets than most of their peers in Eastern and Southern Europe, Latin America and many parts of Asia. The only comparable success stories are the so-called Asian Tigers: Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. A convenient index of Central Europe’s success can be found by comparing its economic growth per capita since 1989 with that of Eastern Europe and Latin America (see chart above). Central Europe’s unclouded image has recently begun to change, however. When Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, reshaped his country’s political system in a manner that ran counter to some Western standards, it could be dismissed as an isolated case. But in the autumn of 2015, a new Polish government – formed by the right-wing Law and Justice party under the guidance of its charismatic leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski – embarked on a very similar populist path. Within a few months, the ruling majority had approved a law infringing on the independence of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and passed another measure giving the security services almost unlimited rights of eavesdropping and electronic surveillance. When the Tribunal ruled that a law curbing its prerogatives was unconstitutional, the new Polish government refused to recognize the verdict. Politicians, diplomats and opinion shapers in Western Europe began to sound the alarm. In their eyes, events in Central Europe were not discrete phenomena but pieces of a larger puzzle. The puzzle was composed not just of the illiberal governments in Poland and Hungary, but also contained other elements, including a resurgence of extreme right opposition parties in Slovakia and Hungary and strong anti-immigration sentiment across the entire region. By January 2016, columnist Jakob Augstein of Der Spiegel could openly question whether the EU had made a mistake in accepting the Central European countries as member states. He warned that the region could become the testing ground for a new Kulturkampf, in which western and eastern values clashed. This view, while controversial, did not differ much from what many Western politicians were saying. It is difficult to deny that the risks are serious. However, it is still too early to claim that Central Europe is slipping into authoritarianism and shifting eastwards in terms of its political values. Poland and Hungary are far closer to model democracy Denmark than to Turkey or even Russia. Hungarians and Poles enjoy unrestricted freedom of speech and association; they may publicly demonstrate their opposition to the government; political parties operate freely and private media have not been nationalized or censored. The institutional shocks Central Europe is facing look likely to be serious, not fatal. For political elites and voters in both Poland and in Hungary, democracy remains “the only game in town.” No openly antidemocratic movement in either country could seize power in the foreseeable future. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    Ignacy Morawski-10-2
    Publication Date: 
    Thu, 2016-03-31 05:00

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  • Trump vs Clinton: U.S. democracy undergoing a deep transition

    March 21, 2016 07:55 ON JANUARY 21, 2017, the 45th President of the United States will be inaugurated. Changes of administration in Washington differ from those in other democracies. If the Republicans win the White House, up to 5,000 senior officials will be replaced. But next year will be even more of a departure from the norm: no matter who wins the elections on November 8, the U.S. will become a different republic, writes World Review Expert Dr. Uwe Nerlich. Wise observers like the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have often pointed out that “American democracy has been a method of evolution.” It is never to be regarded as a finished product but rather as an edifice that remains under construction – a process that causes “constant revision in the texture of our culture.” This time, change could turn out to be more disruptive. With several weeks to go in the presidential primaries, the trend lines suggest that on July 21, Donald Trump will win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, while Hillary Clinton will be confirmed as his opponent a week later at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. After her five-state sweep on March 15, Ms. Clinton is two-thirds of the way to the 2,322 delegates she needs for the nomination. But even as the Democratic front-runner builds a prohibitive lead, she has lost a majority of young voters to 74-year-old Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-declared “democratic socialist.” Ms. Clinton’s candidacy is haunted by the threat of a possible indictment over improper use of her private e-mail server to send classified messages while she was Secretary of State. The spectacle of a supreme commander who disregarded the basics of national security will not help Ms. Clinton with conservative voters. Besides, during the primaries, she has been driven leftwards to capture her party’s nomination, but now must move to the center if she expects to win in November. On the Republican side, the 162-year-old GOP is facing an existential crisis. The GOP establishment has pulled out all the stops to keep Mr. Trump short of the delegate count needed for the nomination. The dilemma for the Republican leadership is excruciating. Do they defend the party’s identity or adopt what many see as an independent candidate who has infiltrated the GOP? Donald Trump, for his part, appears unscathed by criticism from his party colleagues and most of the media. He has solidified his position as front-runner, doubling voter turnouts in the Republican primaries and diverting attention from the Democratic race. Even if the GOP does manage to block Mr. Trump’s nomination, there is every chance he would run as an independent candidate. That would split the conservative vote and destroy any chance of a Republican victory, as the party establishment well knows. Both parties clearly prioritize domestic affairs, though neither has proposed an agenda that promises to restore the country’s “bonds of cohesion,” whether in regard to political bipartisanship or social tensions. With Hillary Clinton in the White House, her concept of an American “village” with diminishing social distances will have to be translated into specific government programs. Donald Trump’s slogan “make American great again” also refers primarily to domestic repair, but it is even more diffuse and incoherent. While Ms. Clinton is expected to pursue a middle-of-the-road pragmatism without creative power, Mr. Trump inspires worry not just over his policies (whatever they may be), but even more for his authoritarian attitude, which suggests he would not hesitate to take unprincipled or even illegal actions once in office. This choice has serious implications for America’s global role. Neither uninspired pragmatism nor erratic authoritarianism will keep the U.S. on its evolutionary path as a democratic model for the world. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    Dr Uwe Nerlich
    Publication Date: 
    Mon, 2016-03-21 06:00

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  • Viktor Orban brings his wartime politics to the European stage

    March 19, 2016 07:40 RECENT news that the oldest daughter of Viktor Orban, the self-proclaimed “illiberal” prime minister of Hungary, was pregnant, prompted a question among many that is characteristic of the mood in Budapest at the moment: might Mr. Orban, soon to be a grandpa, soften his radical political edge? The overwhelming reply was “fat chance!” writes World Review Guest Contributor Professor Robert Braun. This is hardly surprising. Mr. Orban, who during Hungary’s quarter century of transformation has already made a remarkable journey – from radical liberal to devout nationalist and from up-and-coming, young pro-European local player to hypercritical, love-to-be-hated anti-European Union demagogue – has no reason to let up. His star keeps rising. And he is enjoying the ride tremendously. How long will it last, though? The politics that have propelled Mr. Orban thus far contains a flaw that has not hurt him in Hungary, but may prove fatal on the larger European scene. At home, he demonstrates superior skills of maintaining power by skating on the outer edges of democratic rules – often crossing the lines acceptable to Western bystanders and Hungarian Europhiles. He firmly rules over a country that is accustomed to leaders with a big appetite for power and he is said to feel the “vibes” of his nation; there is slim chance that he will soon find a challenger at home. He controls his center-right party, Fidesz, his quasi-coalition with the Christian Democrats and even his challengers from the far right, Jobbik. And he controls his oligarchs who depend on the flow of wealth from state resources. The opposition is fragmented and out of touch with the electorate; it delivers harangues about political structures to a frustrated elite instead of discussing the down-to-earth problems of ordinary people. Viktor Orban’s primary strength is in his ability to rally his supporters against imaginary enemies, both inside and outside the country. A born wartime leader, he needs a permanent state of war to keep up his momentum. This also explains his propensity for flip-flops: in war, it is standard practice to frequently change allies and foes. He has perfected this modus operandi during his six years as prime minister; he knows that wartime leaders are of no use during peacetime. In private, he may become a wise and mature grandfather. But in public, he must keep his radical image to arouse the spirit of Armageddon and maintain his edge. Relentlessly raising the stakes in his wars, he outgrew Hungary and inserted himself into the European arena. His wars – against Brussels, against refugees, against liberals – have become conflicts on a bigger, European, scale. Hence the problem. Today, Mr. Orban’s ambition is to lead a group of EU countries with electorates disenchanted with liberal democracy and skeptical of their prospects of ever catching up to Western Europe. The challenge for him is to transfer his ability to impose his political agenda on a much bigger and far more complex political platform than his Hungary is, and against far more cunning opponents. Also, the fight is fought by means that are unfamiliar to him. He thrives on face-to-face combat, while in the new Europe real battles take place in the quiet backrooms of power, not in the media or the European Parliament. This is clearly to his disadvantage. As the stakes are not about Hungary but Europe, other EU leaders may simply opt to ease pressure on Mr. Orban and Hungary – which would instantly deflate him – while attempting to lure his current allies back into the fold. Poland is probably a good first target for this strategy, as it has a strong tradition of opposing totalitarian regimes and of distrusting Russia. In this war of his, Mr. Orban is much more likely to lose than to win in the end – even if he appears to be doing just fine right now. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    World Review Contributor
    Publication Date: 
    Sat, 2016-03-19 06:00

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  • Young Hong Kongers oppose unification with China

    March 16, 2016 07:18 NEARLY a year and a half after Hong Kong’s “umbrella revolution” (Sept.-Dec. 2014), the legacy of the seemingly unsuccessful protest continues to dominate Hong Kong’s political debate. This adds a new twist to already complicated relations with Beijing, writes World Review Guest Expert Joseph Dobbs. Hong Kong’s economic leaders are concerned that the growing question mark over the city’s political future imperils its economic prospects. With the young generation turning increasingly rebellious, with legislative elections set for later this year and with the controversial election of the city’s chief executive set for 2017, political debate in Hong Kong is virtually certain to remain tense. Any strong response from Beijing could darken the former British colony’s future still further. During the last two months of 2015, five Hong Kong booksellers were reported missing. They surfaced in China facing what are widely believed to be spurious criminal charges (two of the five have since returned to Hong Kong, but they refuse to comment on the situation). Activists and human rights groups in Hong Kong are convinced that it was a set of gossipy books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party officials that prompted Beijing to abduct the five. The case of the missing booksellers is a glaring example of Beijing’s undermining of the autonomy it guaranteed Hong Kong at the handover in 1997. And this is just the latest iteration of what many Hong Kongers see as an erosion of Hong Kong’s rule of law, and the principle of “one country, two systems” itself. Small wonder that the international financial community is beginning to have concerns about Hong Kong’s independence. The recent decision by HSBC not to return its global headquarters to the city, while largely an endorsement of London, was reported by Reuters to be partly based on the banking group’s concerns about Hong Kong. The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Hong Kong the highest in the world, but it noted that “ongoing efforts to erode the power of Hong Kong’s judiciary and Legislative Council and to intervene in the economy could undermine the rule of law.” China’s leaders can’t fail to notice that only 31.1 percent of Hong Kong residents identify as primarily Chinese, with 67.6 percent identifying first and foremost as Hong Kongers. The biggest concern to Beijing is the increasing disassociation with China among Hong Kong’s youth. As much as 82.6 percent of 18-29 year olds identify as Hong Kongers, with only 13.3 percent identifying primarily as Chinese. In Hong Kong’s postcolonial life, this age group has always been “less Chinese” than its elders, but Chinese identity among the young has been at a record low for the last several years, and the identity gap between the young and the old is wider than it has ever been. The increasingly politically active youth seeks to harness Hong Kong’s latent localism now, long demonstrated in anti-mainlander sentiments, and form a political movement to carry on the legacy of the umbrella revolution. The divide between Hong Kong and the mainland looks therefore set only to widen in the coming decades. The tendency may seem crucial in the context of the city-state being obligated to reunify completely with the rest of China in 2047. Today, most Hong Kongers either do not want independence from China or realize that it is next to impossible. But if the young “umbrella soldiers’s” line of thinking makes its way into the mainstream political debate in Hong Kong, it is certain to elicit a strong response from Beijing. Hong Kong’s status after 2047 may seem like a distant issue, but the city’s near-term financial stability will rely on the issue being settled well in advance, so it can avoid a flight of capital in the 2030s. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    World Review Guest Expert
    Publication Date: 
    Wed, 2016-03-16 06:00

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  • Uganda’s future clouded by uncertainty in politics and oil

    March 15, 2016 07:54 AFTER three decades in power, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda won a fifth consecutive term in February 2016. The irregularities that accompanied this reelection and the delayed takeoff of the country’s budding oil industry have cast a shadow on Uganda’s mid-term prospects, writes World Review Expert Professor Dr Jaime Pinto. Mr. Museveni took 61 percent of the vote on February 18, while his closest opponent, Kizza Besigye, garnered 35 percent. But the incumbent’s campaign was marred by a crackdown on opponents, particularly against the main opposition party – the Forum for Democratic Change – and its leader, Mr. Besigye, who was detained four times in the space of a single week. The atmosphere is particularly tense in the country’s capital and largest city, Kampala, which is an opposition stronghold. Student and youth movements there were targeted by security forces. As was the case five years ago, access to social media was blocked. The opposition complained that vote rigging had taken place. According to a poll by Research World International, President Museveni is less popular than Mr. Besigye among Uganda’s middle class. In Ugandan elections, money can play a crucial role, from access to vehicles and propaganda material to cash handouts to voters. During the last campaign, the ruling party was responsible for 88 percent of all campaign-related expenditure. However, its official program brings no new answers to Uganda’s problems. Both inside and outside the country, the impression persists that the elections were unfair. During his campaign, President Museveni frequently waved the flag of “steady progress.” He has a point. Despite endemic poverty (19.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line), big regional disparities in living standards, high unemployment rates (especially among the young) and widespread corruption, Uganda has made significant progresses since Mr. Museveni first came to power in 1986. Economic growth may not be the most reliable indicator of progress, especially in countries recovering from widespread conflict. Still, from 1987 to 2010, Uganda’s gross domestic product grew at a rapid pace of about 7 percent per year, according to the World Bank. For the past five years, annual GDP growth has been around 5 percent. Under Mr. Museveni, the country has implemented important reforms and opened the economy to private investment. The country has seen a sharp reduction in HIV infection rates. In agriculture, the country recently increased grain productivity, surpassing the threshold of two metric tons per hectare, an important milestone. After the discovery of oil in 2006, Uganda passed important legislation regarding management of the resource. This included creating a petroleum fund for oil revenues and a sovereign wealth fund to manage oil money investments. It also established safeguards for managing the income, including a revenue sharing program for the 25 districts where oil has been discovered. Uganda needs a pipeline to get its oil to one of the ports on the Indian Ocean. There are, at the moment, three options on the table (see map), and the government will likely base its decision mainly – though not exclusively – on cost-effectiveness. Although it will not become a petroleum-based economy, oil may have a significant impact on the Uganda’s future. The country was one of the first to become part of the new petroleum frontier in East Africa when, in 2006, Tullow Oil (a UK company) discovered oil in the Lake Albert region. Ugandan reserves are now estimated in 6.5 billion barrels, 2 billion barrels of which are expected to be commercially viable. Producing legislation, negotiations between key players and infrastructural needs have delayed production, which is not expected to start until 2020. If current projections play out, Uganda will become a mid-level African producer, similar to Chad, Gabon or Congo. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    Professor Dr Jaime Pinto
    Publication Date: 
    Tue, 2016-03-15 06:00

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  • Argentina’s new government: fresh hopes, old problems

    March 11, 2016 07:25 PRESIDENT Mauricio Macri of Argentina, who was elected last October, has quickly set out to show how much his administration differs from that of his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Much of the attention has focused on its determination to end the country’s complex set of price controls, subsidies and exchange rate restrictions. But politically, the new government is walking on a minefield, writes World Review Expert, Dr. Joseph S. Tulchin. Mr. Macri’s first moves have been executive actions that do not require congressional approval. He ended the currency exchange rate controls, allowing the peso to float freely. The currency depreciated rapidly: a dollar could buy just nine Argentine pesos in December; by March it was worth more than 16. The domestic impact on prices is muted for the moment due to the summer vacation, but in March there will be a round of price increases on consumer products and public services that will cause more than a ripple of public discontent. To counter the inflationary pressure, Mr. Macri announced that his government would take a gradualist approach, bringing down the fiscal deficit in stages and seeking to curb inflation over a period of three years. In this, he specifically rejected the abrupt measures proposed by conservative economists in his government, who warn that his strategy will only prolong the social and political pain. The Macri administration also removed the tax on agricultural exports, leading to a huge jump in grain sales abroad. Most importantly, Economy Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay managed to work out an agreement with the hedge funds that hold defaulted Argentine bonds and had refused to participate in the country’s two debt restructurings. These so-called “holdouts” had essentially managed to exclude Argentina from the international capital markets. Argentina recognized 100 percent of the face value of the bonds and promised to pay about half of the total interest claimed by the holdouts. Though the deal means the principal holdouts – four U.S.-based hedge funds – earned huge profits on their original investment, it was considered a success for the government. Argentina can now raise the money it needs to pay for new economic measures. Still, the Argentine Congress will have to accept the settlement. Accomplishing that will not be easy. Over the previous 12 years of Peronist government, there was rampant depredation of public finances. From the president down, the state was used to extract millions of dollars for personal enrichment. In Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, Argentina ranked 107 out of the 168 countries surveyed (Mexico, by comparison, ranked 97). Mr. Macri, who was mayor of Buenos Aires from 2007 to 2015, has not been tainted by scandal. The officials who moved with him from the city administration to the federal government are considered clean. More will be revealed about Mr. Macri’s attitude toward accountability, as well as his political smarts, when he puts together a coalition in Congress next month to appoint two judges to the Supreme Court. The new government also has to deal with the famously bloated Argentine bureaucracy. It needs to be streamlined. However, no policy can be implemented without cooperation from the middle and lower ranks of the bureaucracy. Pushing them too far, too fast would only destroy the government. There are already frequent press reports of government layoffs. Moreover, the social safety net constructed over the past two decades cannot be dismantled without fatal political consequences. Mr. Macri has said repeatedly that he understands this and will work to reduce poverty. However, as one of his chief senior appointments noted, the government is “more broken” than the new team had anticipated. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    Dr Joseph S. Tulchin
    Publication Date: 
    Fri, 2016-03-11 06:00

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  • Kim presses his luck with China in the Year of the Monkey

    March 08, 2016 07:40 THE CHINESE government must have expected trouble from its ally, North Korea’s strongman Kim Jong-un, on the occasion of the Chinese and Korean New Year, which started on this February 8. Perhaps that was why Wu Dawei, the Chinese foreign ministry special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, was sent to Pyongyang on February 2, just before the end of the Year of the Sheep, writes World Review Expert Kati Kang. He carried three requests to North Korea’s supreme leader: establish a political dialogue with South Korea, go back to six-party international negotiations on your nuclear program and do not launch any missiles or atomic devices. According to a source in Beijing, Mr. Wu also conveyed a direct message from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kim Jong-un: China cannot continue to deflect the international anger over North Korea’s antics any longer. The host listened, but obviously did not give a damn. As if in mockery of the Chinese, Kim Jong-un ordered a test of what looked like a long-range ballistic missile. It went off on February 7, 2016 – the eve of the Year of the Monkey. A firm believer that China is the biggest threat to his country (and hence his need for weapons of mass destruction), the pudgy dictator also canceled the New Year holiday celebrated by the two nations for a millennium – a joyful fiesta of family reunions over food and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits, and a time for men to gamble. Now in North Korea, the birthday anniversaries of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, regime founder Kim Il-sung, are supposed to supplant it as an official public holiday. The missile launch heightened tensions across northeast Asia. It was a defiant signal to the world, especially to the United States, that Kim Jong-un was his own man, neither controlled by China nor afraid of it. And if Washington wanted anything from North Korea, it should talk business directly with him. Beijing opposes Mr. Kim’s nuclear ambitions. It joined the international condemnation of North Korea in December 2015 after it allegedly detonated a hydrogen bomb – the blast occurred at an atomic weapons test site not far from the Chinese border. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately reiterated its government’s long-standing policy that the Korean Peninsula must be a nuclear-free zone. Kim Jong-un replied to this – in his fashion. In January, North Korea’s leading daily Rodong Sinmun (Workers’ Newspaper) published a philosophical commentary full of cryptic allusions to the Chinese: while it is nice to receive aid from outside, North Korea is also fine without it; domestic products are the best and self-reliance is most important, it said. Another article observed that no one will help North Korea in the event of a nuclear war. And while “certain countries” suggest that North Korea remain calm and show restraint toward its enemies, they take a neutral position themselves in the struggle with capitalists and imperialists. The articles did not name any country, but the signal was clear: Kim Jong-un was not going to budge. North Korea’s economy is utterly dependent on China: roughly 70 percent of its total trade is with that country. If Beijing stopped this trade, the Kim regime would be doomed instantly. Yet the fact of the matter is that China has little influence on its client regime in Pyongyang. The Global Times, a Chinese government newspaper, observed with melancholy that the two nations are no longer friendly and that China finds itself under undue pressure from North Korea. It is not difficult to imagine the bitterness toward Kim Jong-un that Chinese officials mask behind such minced words. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Author: 
    Kati Kang
    Publication Date: 
    Tue, 2016-03-08 06:00

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