China is not a democracy; at least not in the sense to which our western sensibility is acclimated. Starting in the 1980s (the period of opening up and reform), the government organized village elections in which several candidates would run. They labelled this “the New Democracy” or “Democracy with Chinese characteristics”.
Nevertheless, in practice each of the candidates was chosen or in the least “approved” by the single dominant Communist Party of China. Higher levels within the echelons of government are indirectly elected; with candidates, in essence, being vetted by high-rankers within government. Only the former British and Portuguese colonies of Hong Kong and Macau have been given the vote. But, as in the village elections, those who run for election are strictly and closely selected by the leadership of the Communist Party. It is for these reasons, and not unfairly, that China is deemed undemocratic. And there is little effort by the Party to deny this allegation. Quick to express scepticism over democracy in China, critics of this notion nominally tout the idea that China is better off because positions are assumed by people who are qualified by due merit as opposed to popularity, not to mention that traditional Chinese values are often said to be not in line with the idea and practice of liberal democracy (though in fairness, liberal democratic Taiwan, whom they claim is a part of China may serve as a rebuttal to this claim).
Following the death of Mao, Deng Xiaoping who was much less economically (not so much politically) conservative and much more pragmatic than Chairman Mao and his comrades, rolled out a number of reforms that were calculated to stimulate and modernise the Chinese economy. A privatisation scheme was unfolded and people were paid in differentiated amounts and according to how much they produced for the first time in the 1970s and special economic zones were created in some coastal cities where government involvement was not as pronounced as it had been under Chairman Mao. Soon a middle class (claimed to be the nominal force behind democratisation in the other wealthy countries in the region such as South Korea and Taiwan) began to take form – and this was greatly encouraged as it was a signpost that China was growing. But these reforms only went so far where political life was concerned – here there was to be no free market of values and ideas; the Communist Party was still in charge. It is indeed true that, unlike before, the people could disagree with the leader and could (though in a decidedly Chinese and respectful manner in which one could not go “too far”), criticise the government’s policies. This was a long way since the Hundred Flowers campaign in which dissenters were baited into voicing their opinions and then purged for doing so. But it still had its limits wedded into it. And there is no stauncher reminder of this than the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1986 and subsequent demotion of reformist elements in the Party, most notably Hu Yaobang. The subsequent declaration of martial law and crackdown on people who seemingly were only guilty of wanting their state to politically open up and be more democratic was only more proof that the Chinese state, just three years before the Soviet Union and much of communist Eastern Europe would undergo their own largely successful conversions to democracy, was not willing to transform itself overnight into a democracy.
And in fact one could argue that the reforms necessitated an even less democratic China in that they reverted, in rhetoric and in ends at least, to the China of the Great Leap Forward. Consider the extent to which the planning is done from above and, necessarily, popular participation is seen as potentially opening a window for dissent and therefore a path towards distraction from the task at hand. So much of what China has achieved and hopes to achieve in the wake of the reforms and opening up is pinned to a particularly anti-democratic, anti-populist notion of the state and its constituent citizens.
This speaks to another reason as to why China will not democratise anytime soon. That of the outside world which China has been increasingly trading with since Deng took to opening up the republic and made it the ‘world’s factory’. While it would appear that in rhetoric at least, the United States and other ‘standard-bearers’ of liberal democracy are at odds with China over the country’s anti-democratic stance and its poor human rights record, in actual fact the outside world benefits greatly from a non-democratic China. These outside forces have been able to harness the fact that China’s citizens have tenuous standing and codified human rights and have used this to optimise their own costs of production. Knowing that the government wants more and more of the world to outsource manufacturing to it so that it may grow its economy by the close to 10% figure it desires and that it is willing and able to clampdown significant protests by the workers, many western multinational corporations have greatly outsourced their production to China in full confidence that the regime will remain stable and that the labour will remain cheap to compensate and with very few requirements to provide (air-conditioning, working hours cut off and even age restrictions). This essentially means then that outside “pressure” for China to democratise will be limited to Nobel Prize giving to the country’s would-be reformers, speeches at the United Nations, Amnesty International reports and little else. Indeed, many cower to even allow an aged religious leader a visa into its borders in fears that it might offend the hardliners in the Chinese government and therefore compromise its investments and manufacturing.
In any case, the Communist Party has very little actual opposition. The strongest challenge it has faced in way of democratisation may be said to be the Democracy Party of China which was established by former Tiananmen Square student protestors. In just 24 hours after the founders tried to unsuccessfully register the party, the central government cracked down on the organisation’s leaders. C Wong Donghai was quickly sentenced on December 21, 1998 to 11 years of imprisonment and three years of deprivation of political rights “for subversion of the tranquillity of the republic.” And on the very same day, another prominent member, Xu Wenli was sentenced to 13 years “for attempting to overthrow the Communist Party.” Many more were to suffer similar or close to similar fates. The only legally permitted pro-democracy party in China is the meagre, powerless 250,000-member China Democratic League which was founded in 1941 and quickly became absorbed into the United Front coalition led by the CCP.
The 2014 Yellow Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, the most recent episode in attempts by the citizens of that region to achieve concessions from Beijing achieved very little and in fact caused even more reaction on the part of the CCP – there were no changes in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress which the 100,000 protestors were calling for and the grip over entertainment, media and the press was tightened even more. The timing could not have been worse, for this movement coincided with President Xi Jinping’s policy of a crackdown on dissenters and factionalists. The incumbent President and Paramount Leader, touted by British leftist news magazine The NewStatesman as ‘Mini-Mao’ for supposedly being the most consolidated and powerful President of China since Mao, has launched a campaign under the banner of anti-corruption with the aim of purging elements that show themselves poised to threaten the status quo.
Furthermore, there is also the controversial notion that the people of China would not benefit from transparency. The Chinese practice of ‘guangxi’ which is characterised by usage of one’s connections for self-advancement in dealings is widely used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people from social settings to business and government transactions; from small villages to megacities. Instilling democracy with its appendage of total transparency would uproot the way of life for a vast majority of China’s population and would likely meet opposition no matter how minimal. And while it is difficult to generalise, China is after all home to over a billion people, it has been suggested that a large number of citizens are abject to revolutions which tend to be costly and bring their lives to a grinding halt. For not only would democracy be a change in the way of government, but also the character of social life to which the people of China have become acclimated.
When the officials of China look at the democratic world, there is not much that indicates to them that democracy breeds national unity – much the opposite. In England there is the Scottish question, in Spain there is Catalonia, in Belgium there is Wallonia, in Canada there is Quebec, and close to home in India there is Kashmir (over whom in any case, the Chinese seek to assert their claim). To them, therefore, and not at all without reason, the creation of a democratic system would only serve to stoke and fuel the flames of secessionism. Already, they are constantly having to show a firm hand and cold prison cells for those who wish to carve out of China a series of separate, independent states. Not only are there disputes with neighbours over island territories, and Taiwan over its sovereignty, but China is already having to deal with these elements in its mainland provinces. There is, most famously, the issue of Tibet and then there is that of the province of Xinjiang. The province is mostly populated by a Muslim Uygur population which sees itself as more Turkic than (Han) Chinese and who seek independence along the lines of Mongolia or even a union with one of the adjoining majority Muslim, Turkic states of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan. And this has been in spite of constant intimidation and express firmness by the Chinese state. How much more of the likelihood that they would seek independence if China becomes a democracy? How much more so when the instrument of the referendum is at the disposal? Would they attempt to use it for the purposes of breaking away from the government of Beijing which, it is at least alleged, mistreats and violates their rights on account of their linguistic idiosyncrasies, ethnicity and Muslim faith which they stridently cling on to despite incentives to the contrary by the overwhelmingly atheist, Marxist government? Handing them the referendum would only be a blank cheque for them to rip from China the one-and-a-half-million square-kilometre, oil-laden and natural gas haven (the province being the largest producer of the substance in China). Democracy would stand to be a setback therefore to not only China’s territorial integrity but, ultimately, to its economic prospects and explicit aims. An article by Horowitz in Quartz in 2016 detailed the extent to which China may have actually been further less incentivised towards democracy by the recent results of Brexit for the removal of Britain from the European Union.
The manner in which China’s government is run also makes it unlikely that the state will, voluntarily at least, become democratic. First of all, the Paramount leader wears the three hats of President of the People’s Republic of China, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Committee. This makes dissent from either structures very unlikely – and this is by design. In addition to this, the Politburo is garnered from a selection process by the current Politburo membership who closely vet and select their successors and colleagues accordingly those whom they deem to be most likely continue the party’s line of tight control over the Chinese society. In addition to this, the party has well over 80 million card-carrying members (making it the largest political party in the world) – and has a tight grip over China’s other “major” political force, the eight-party coalition, the United Front (allowed to exist, in any case, for the lack of political threat it poses).
So, will China become a democracy? It depends. As historians and Communist Party leadership alike will recall (and they most certainly do recall) the simultaneous coalition of factors, and little else, was the deciding force which made it possible to answer to the affirmative, for the most part in any case, when the question was posed on whether “could China become a one-party, communist people’s republic?” We should not anticipate a democratic overhaul in China anytime soon, but likewise we should not be too surprised if it occurs.
The Problem of Uncontrolled Nationalism: The Case of Japan before the WWII
Authors: Chan Kung and Yu(Tony) Pan*
Throughout the modern history of the world, Japan is undoubtedly an interesting country: it went from the edge of becoming a colony to one of few independent countries in Asia before World War II, and after the Great War, Japan even became a great power. From a broader level, Japan’s success at that time showed that Asians were not inherently inferior to Westerners. Unfortunately, Japan which was supposed to be the leader of Asia to a bright future, chose the path fascism and imperialism. Eventually, Japan became the source of the Pacific War.
It is undeniable that from the Meiji Restoration until the early Showa period (the end of World War II), Japan adapted an expansionary policy, which brought deep suffering to its neighboring countries and ultimately dragged itself into the abyss of destruction. When World War II ended, nearly 70 years of development achievements were utterly wiped out by the war.
In this context, an important question we need to ponder is: What led Japan to embark on an expansionary and self-destructive path? At what point in time did Japan’s policymakers start to lose its mind? What can future generations of nations learn from Japan’s tragic experience to prevent the same fate from happening again? As a country that has been entangled with Japan for generations and has a complicated relationship with Japan, these issues are of even greater relevance to Chinese researchers today.
Fortunately, there is actually a fair amount of scholarly research on the subject, and there exist four main explanations. The first is the “international structure theory” most commonly used by IR scholars (especially the realists), and the second, more common among Western scholars, is the “weak democratic government theory. The third is the “Pan-Asianism,” which focuses on the constructivist perspective. Finally, there is the political economy explanation of expansionary policies.
At the first glance, it seems that each of these explanations has its own rationale. Of the four, the view that the navy and the military were increasingly extreme in their struggle for policy dominance is the most possible explanation. However, it seems that each of the four existing explanations can, in fact, be incorporated into a new one, namely, that Japan’s self-destructive expansionary policies prior to World War II were the material manifestation of an uncontrolled nationalism. More specifically, these four explanations answer why the Showa government was unable to control the nationalist forces in the country. On the other hand, however, the question of whether nationalism would necessarily expand without outside interference and lead to expansionist policies was left unexplained.
Because of the natural characteristics of nationalism, it seems to us that there is a natural tendency for nationalism to expand in the course of its development. The main reasons for this phenomenon are not complicated. First of all, nationalism is a group ideology, which means that nationalists have a common goal at the macro level, but the boundaries of national interest are not consistently defined by different individuals. On this basis, because of the unreliability of group rationality, nationalism as a groupthink is prone to overstretch in the course of its development. Moreover, when such currents are not rationally controlled and end up holding state policy hostage, the state tends to follow a self-destructive path of expansionism. Pre-World War II Japan is a classic case in point.
It should be noted that the positive effects of nationalism is not being denied here, but it is crucial that a country’s policymaking process should not be ultimately being a hostage to nationalist forces. The question then, is how to prevent nationalism from spiraling out of control. From an empirical point of view, there are two different directions to prevent nationalism from getting out of control at the macro level: first, to eliminate “group irrationality” in nationalism; Second, to establish a corresponding gatekeeper between nationalism and state policymaking.
The first direction is essential to improve the thinking capacity and cultural literacy of society as a whole. This is a radical way to solve the above problems, and the improvement of the education system is the most crucial part of it. However, for reasons that are easy to understand, this approach often takes too long to implement, and the process is not really controllable. As a result, this approach, while very important, is often insufficient for policymakers.
The second approach, on the other hand, is a short-term solution (relatively speaking). To use the common metaphor of treating a bodily disease, a gatekeeper-kind-of-approach is not to eradicate the disease but rather to prevent it from damaging health amid acceptance of its existence. There are two other ways to establish gatekeepers: one is to establish a mature political system that uses institutional factors to insulate people from the negative effects of nationalism. This is also the more popular approach in developed Western countries. It should be noted that this approach has proven itself to be effective, most notably in the case of the United States, which also has two populist leaders, as opposed to Brazil, where institutional constraints and the resulting establishment have been significantly more effective in containing the negative effects of nationalism on the policy.
The alternative is to rely on a small number of political authorities within society to isolate the scourge of nationalism through the elite’s prestige and quality. Again, this is also an approach that has worked before. The best example is the significant role played by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the “reform and opening-up” process.
So, which is more effective, institutions or authority? This is not a question that can be easily answered. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and because every country and society is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
First of all, the main advantage of institutional gatekeepers is that once established, the containment is apparent and fairly solid; however, the disadvantage is that institutions may take a long time to develop and may come at a cost (e.g., the French Revolution). An authoritative gatekeeper’s advantage is its high degree of operability, while the disadvantage is the unsustainability and instability of the individual factor. On this basis, the realization of either approach needs to be linked to local realities; in other words, neither is necessarily successful. However, despite the different possibilities of approaches and paths, one issue is certain: in this day and age, uncontrolled nationalism is still a problem that threatens national interests, and this issue must be given sufficient attention and focus by policymakers.
Lastly, for contemporary China, the case of Showa Japan has another area of critical research value: how to deal with the current international order? History has shown that almost every attempt to challenge the existing international order independently has often ended in self-destruction. Successful transformations of the international structure tend to be incremental. In the case of pre-World War II Japan, the immediate effect of nationalism was to push the Japanese government to place itself on the opposite side of the prevailing international order. Today’s China has certainly not come that far. In fact, as Professor Wang Jisi says: “In those days, Japan was an ‘institution’ in the international order, while China was rejected and discriminated against by the West as an ‘other.’ Today, Japan is still ‘within the system’ of the international order, while China has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy and its military power is not what it used to be, but there is still the question of how China views the existing international order and how to deal with its relationship with the existing international order. ” In dealing with this problem, preventing the negative effects of nationalism on state policy is undoubtedly an important aspect.
*Mr. Yu(Tony) Pan serves as the associate research fellow and the research assistant of Mr. Chan Kung, Founder, Chairman, and the Chief Researcher of ANBOUND. He obtained his master’s degree at George Washington University, the Elliott School of International Affairs; and his bachelor’s degree in University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. Mr. Pan has published pieces in various platform domestically and internationally. He currently focuses on Asian Security, geopolitics in Indo-Pacific region and the U.S.-Sino Relations.
CCP’s Motives for the Cultural Genocides in Tibet and East Turkestan
Despite more than sixty years military invasion of independent Tibet and East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) by People’s liberation army of Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Gross human rights violation, massive crackdown and mass internment of Uighur Muslim peoplecontinue unabated. Prominent scholars and experts have debated in recent years over the motives and the implications of such oppressive policies. Months ago, yet another new reports and finding have revealed the implementation of military-style coercive labor programs in Tibet. A better understanding can be made by discerning the roots of such oppressive policies adopted by, and to find the connection between the mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the forced labor programs that Beijing has been implementing in Tibet. From a broader perspective, it would not be an overstatement to call the Beijing actions in Tibet and Xinjiang as imbued with genocidal intent. There are underlying similarities between the Mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the forced labor programs, as a fact that the Tibetan, Uighur, and other minority’s population are the victims of similar severe forms of repression due to their belief and securing Beijing’s rule over it. Both the Tibetan people and the Uighur are currently facing severe threat of identities extinction.
Beijing’s Final Solution in East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang) and Tibet
The definition of the Cultural genocide is when there is a systematic effort carried out to exterminate the identity of a group through the means of destruction and annihilation of culture, language, religious institutions of that targeted group. The act of cultural genocide is generally carried out accompanied with infliction of violence and oppression.
For a long time, both the Uighur and Tibetans have been at the receiving end of the repressive policies of CCP, which aims to eradicate their religion, culture, language, and distinct identities. Recent uncovering of rising numbers of mass internment camps in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) and the military-style coercive labor programs in Tibet has brought more spotlight on the clear indication of the cultural genocidal attempt of the Chinese regime. Chen Quanguo is currently the party secretary of the region of East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang). As soon as he took over as the party leader of the region in 2016, the persecution of the Uighurs and other minorities through mass internment camps escalate. It is not revelation that the architect of the internment camps in East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang) Chen Quanguo was the former party secretary of Tibet for five years, where he has formulated and implemented similar draconian measures.
2018 was a big year, when United Nation has revealed the reports of hundreds of mass internment camps being built by the Chinese government in the region of Xinjiang. Ever since the reports of mass internment of Uighurs Muslims and other minorities in the prison-like establishment came to the light of the international community, Beijing has received extensive criticism and pressure likewise. Nonetheless, this pressure from the international community doesn’t seem to have stopped the cultural genocidal pursuit of the Chinese government as they have remained more resilient and repugnant. There are a spiking number of the new mass internment camps established during 2019-20. Through the intensive use of satellite images, records of the survivors and escaped victims, and other important tracking programs, research institutes such as the Australian Strategic policy institute in the recent month of September has present a database of around 380 internment camps build across the region till now.
Surge of Forced labor programs in Tibet in the midst of strong criticism on Mass internment camps in East Turkestan (CH, Xinjiang)
In the wake of strong criticism and backlash, the Chinese government has appeared to bring up yet another new repressive policy in the region of Tibet. Which evidently have a resemblance to that of Mass internment camps. Adrian Zenz, a leading researcher on East Turkestan’s mass internment has disclosed through the reports and the findings of investigations undertaken dating back to 2016 about the establishment of forced labor programs in Tibet. Researcher Adrian Zenz was one of the earliest groups of researchers, who have alerted the world about the existence Mass internment camps. According to the reports published by Jamestown Foundation in “China Brief Volume” dating September 22 have shown that in just the first seven months of 2020, there were more than half a million Tibetan mainly consisted of the population from the rural area registered into the forced Labor programs. The forced labor program in Tibet shows the similar tendency that the Chinese government has adopted towards the Uighur. Under the guise of vocational training and labor training, the Tibetans enrolled in the programs have to strenuously undergo thought transformation and adoption of the Chinese identities. The Tibetans were forced to abandon their way of livelihood, thought and culture. In the words of Adrian Zenz on the Coercive labor programs in Tibet and the Mass internment camps in Ch. Xinjiang “In the context of Beijing’s increasingly assimilatory ethnic minority policy, it is likely that these policies will promote a long-term loss of linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage.”
A month ago, the House of the Representatives of the United State has passed a resolution with overwhelming support in an outcry against the Human rights violation in Tibet. The resolution has conveyed a clear message of the urgent need to protect the identity, religions, and culture of the Tibetans. As elaborated in H. Res. 697 that the House of Representatives “affirms the cultural and religious significance of the goal of genuine autonomy for the people of Tibet”
Beijing’s logic behind their actions in Tibet and East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang)
The current patterns of the actions that the Chinese government is following in the Tibet and East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) can be drawn parallel to actions of the Nazi government before the horrendous Holocaust took place. It is an undisputedly fact that Nazi Germany led by Hitler thrived on an extreme form of anti-Semitism and that the wrongful hatred towards the Jewish people has played major factor leading to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism itself is engraved with inherited stereotypes, prejudice, and false generalization of the Jewish people. It wouldn’t be so far fetch to say that the Chinese government has adopted a similar sort of generalization and stereotypes towards the Uighurs people and the Tibetan people. Uighur have been generalized by the Chinese communist party as bewitch with extremist thoughts. The religion and the identity of the Uighur people have been labeled as a form of extremism and need eradication by the CCP. In the words of the CCP officials, they compare the implementation of Mass internment camps as “washing brain” to cleanse the extremist thoughts.
The lack of urgency from the international community
The situation in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) and Tibet is a bit more nuanced, but if history has taught us anything then the Holocaust didn’t happen overnight but rather it was the culmination of decades of discrimination and repressions towards the Jews. The forced labor programs in Tibet and the mass internment camp campaign is only one of the Chinese communist party latest attempt to Sinicize and dismantle the Tibetan and Uighur’s culture, language and religion. Unless and until, the international community will urgently considered the issues of East Turkestan and Tibet more than just a side topic to discuss with China, the Chinese government’s cultural genocide actions will remain steadfast.
China according to Pascal Gauchon
There is no doubt that the United States wants to safeguard its global hegemony but this does not mean that the United States will remain first permanently, power will perhaps be shared in a world of permanent conflict. As for China, it does not have the ambition to rule the world. He wants to serve his interests, turn things to his advantage. However it has no missionary or proselytizing instinct, its culture does not have a purpose of global domination. Chinese emigrants who left for the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought with them a clod of earth to maintain the link with the country of birth. This is not what the European or American pioneers in search of the New World did.
The Chinese dream, like the Japanese dream of the past, would be to be the absent masters of the world, without having to administer it. Take advantage of it, take advantage of it, defend yourself from the risks that can come from the outside, say the Chinese but without governing it. This I believe is Chinese philosophy. In short, there is no global ambition in Chinese culture.
For example, on the maritime power front, there is no doubt that they want to develop a maritime power, intervene where their interests are at stake, defend themselves from threats, have a say in the rules that govern the world economy but this has nothing to do with American hegemony after 1945. China rejects the idea of world domination, even for itself.
The idea advanced by the Chinese nationalists is very different. They refer to the period of the Warring States, between the fifth and third centuries BC, a period in which no power, no order prevailed. In such a disputed world, China could carve out its own way without trying to impose any system.
Now, that China will succeed in becoming a great power is obvious. That it becomes such a dominant power as to create an order that replaces the existing order, it is legitimate to doubt it. Rather, the multipolar world will also be characterized by the presence of a certain disorder, in which Western countries no longer have the means to maintain the old order and China is likely to move away from its global responsibilities.
Having said that, we must not forget that China is a system of power in permanent mobilization and it is increasingly so with Xi Jinping marking a return to the spirit of Maoism. It has the advantages of an authoritarian and planned country, capable of pursuing long-term strategies without worrying about short-term profitability. In fact, the Chinese party state is restructuring the economy and society to capture innovation, to acquire it abroad by buying companies or stealing technology or even recruiting engineers. It is doing everything it can to remedy the lack of this fertile ground for freedom that we see as essential for innovation. Mobile telephony, the Internet and the so-called sharing economy have developed here faster than elsewhere. There is more social freedom in China – license, it should be noted – than the outside world believes, but certain things shouldn’t be touched. Criticism of the party state is not tolerated.
As far as Europe is concerned, this has proved to be very naive.
He hoped, for example, to rely on China to further his environmental goals, so much so that he had prepared a joint declaration to be proclaimed at the EU-China summit last June. But Beijing refused at the last minute due to the trade disputes between it and Brussels, confirming that Europe is not an essential strategic partner, but a market, a high-tech area where help can be found as in an open bar safe place to invest your capital.
As for the conflict in the South China Sea, Beijing, at least at present, has won the essential: the militarization of several coral reefs and the construction of artificial bases. The United States carries out many tests to show that access to its ships remains possible, but they are the only ones or almost the only ones, with France joining. China can therefore take a break to consolidate what it has earned, but of course there is a price to pay for Beijing: the rapprochement of Australia, India, Japan and Singapore.
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