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Where is China Headed?

Less than a century ago, the West was an unquestioned, dominant, and formidable power that arguably stood tall over the rest of the world. The Age of Imperialism set up the perfect playing ground on which both the European continent and the United States were able to directly assert their dominance over many of the Eastern nations. Remember when some of the Western nations divided China into spheres of influence in the early twentieth century? I think it’s fair to say now that the tide has turned, or is at the very least, turning. Here’s why:

China has established itself as an economic superpower over the course of the 21st century. As China is gaining more power and, arguably, respect, China is also taking actions that largely resemble actions taken by nations during the age of imperialism. According to an article from The Economist, Africans are growing increasingly wary about authoritarian China’s presence in Africa. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner, so it makes sense, unfortunately, that the China’s presence in Africa is driven, arguably, solely by the economic prospects that result from controlling Africa. It seems as though China is looking on to growing more and more imperialistic, which is clearly evident with President of China’s Xi Jin ping plan to invest at least 250 billion dollars in Latin America. I think it’s safe to say that China has been getting a taste of what it feels like to be an imperialist power, but unfortunately for the rest of the world, it’s becoming more evident that China is using its powers to benefit itself. China is often not helpful in restoring order or helping the political systems of African nations; rather, China is more concerned with making sure that is able to better its own economy.

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Syria’s New Export: Western culture

Over the summer, the Louvre Museum housed an exhibition promoting its new branch, the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Among the classical artifacts, Hindu idols, and paintings hailing from all over the world collected for the “birth” of the satellite museum laid a 13th century Qur’an excerpt from Syria. Though the manuscript is foreign to France, it is lucky to be in the hands of the Louvre museum and free from the chaos still dominating its original home. While the Qur’an might have been spared from destruction, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is digging, selling, and obliterating the cultural heritage of Syria.

The Islamic State, or IS, declared their caliphate in the summer of 2014 amid fighting between Bashar-Al-Assad’s Syrian government and opposition forces in the Syrian Civil War. Though IS has many enemies, Western and Muslim, and has been designated by many as a terrorist group, the caliphate has made remarkably more progress in achieving their aims compared to other organizations. This is partly due to overseas financial contributions to their cause and effective recruitment techniques, but also because of the group’s ability to recognize economic demands. Just as the IS have utilized the oil fields of Iraq and Syria, so too have they tapped into the Hellenic and Western artifacts buried in their lands to fuel their expanding theocracy.

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Boko Haram

Much of the world has focused its attention on Paris this past week, but the terrorist group Boko Haram is still continuing to wreak havoc in Nigeria. Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yousef, and it was initially a peaceful protest with extremist ideas. However, the death of Yousef in 2009 has led Boko Haram to resort to extreme means of violence, and they use that violence toward their goal of turning the presently religiously diverse Nigeria into an Islamic state. The group believes that modernization leads to corruption, and therefore wish, essentially, to establish a state in which they can turn back the clock. Boko Haram became especially infamous worldwide when they kidnapped over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls last April, whom they planned to use as suicide bombers.

Many people around the world might know Boko Haram because of the “#Bringbackourgirls” campaign that was prevalent last April. Celebrities and political figures, including Michelle Obama, participated in the social media campaign in the hope that it would lead to the return of the kidnapped schoolgirls. The campaign brought the kidnapping to the attention of the corrupt government, who, for 19 days, either failed to realize or simply did not care that their citizens had been kidnapped. However, while the campaign pressured the Nigerian government to act, it did not end up helping in the end. Countries like France, Israel, and the USA sent military advisors to assist Nigeria in bringing back their girls, but were unable to enact any change because all aid would be swallowed up by the corrupt government. The advisors were also worried that if they worked with the Nigerian government, they could potentially be working with a government that was also committing human rights offenses.

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Repairing the Irreparable: Germany and other Formerly-oppressor States’ Duty to Institutional Memorialization

The state of Germany and other formerly oppressor states have a duty to devote public resources to institutional memorialization. Memorialization is commemorating or preserving the memory of any event, in this case, the Holocaust, one of the most significant mass atrocities in history.

These states should have this duty because by institutionalizing the public resources, they are acknowledging their wrongs, are not in denial of the past, and are showing courage and maturity by facing history. Institutional memorialization can be a means of reparative justice. The survivors can view this as justice since memorialization is essentially a public display and acknowledgement of the victims’ suffering. For example, if a survivor of the Holocaust were to see a memorial established to honor the victims, he or she may feel psychological liberation and gratitude. This form of reparative justice may be more satisfying than a financial compensation. It will be more effective in the long run since it entails public understanding, contrasting with financial compensation, which may be satisfying only for a short-term.

The state of Germany and other formerly-oppressor states should not establish institutional memorialization because they feel forced to or because they feel the world expects it from them. It certainly is their duty; however, it should come from within and they should feel the responsibility of their actions, and the gravity of the damage they caused. Read more

Selling “American-ness”: Japan’s Uniqlo

There’s a recent slang term has grown in popularity in Japan: unibare. This word is a combination of the two words, Uniqlo, the company, and bareru, which is the Japanese word equivalent to the phrase “letting the cat out of the bag.” This term is used when someone is caught wearing Uniqlo clothing, what is now the equivalent of social suicide among Japanese youth.

But despite a seemingly negative image held against the clothing brand, Uniqlo has grown to be Asia’s biggest clothing retailer, and the president, Tadashi Yanai, is the richest man in Japan. Clearly they’re doing something right. But with such an image, how are they maintaining sales domestically, and how are they effectively projecting their image abroad? The answer lies in the brilliant globalization strategy of this company, as well as the core truth of how an affordable retail company can succeed on the global scale: you have to sell American-ness. Before elaborating on the latter, let’s look at how and why Uniqlo has grown to be the retail giant it is today.

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Towards an Understanding of the Macro and Micro Implications of the Sino-Tibet Conflict

The Sino-Tibetan conflict continues to affect hundreds of lives and the Tibetan people have continued with their peaceful movements in response. China and Tibet have tried to win the west over for support, which may have a significant impact on future ties between the western countries and the opposing side. In light of all of China’s oppression, several Tibetans have fled to India through the Himalayas and to seek refuge in Dharamsala, India.

After I produced a documentary on the Sino-Tibet conflict, I traveled to the Tibetan government, interviewed the Prime Minister (where I learned about the Central Tibetan Administration’s direct action to resolve the conflict with China, the subsidies that the Indian government is providingfor Tibetan education in India, and Tibetan progress towards establishing a democratic charter), visited the parliament, and got the opportunity to explore rooms full of preserved Buddhist scriptures. The trip helped me crystallize several ideas regarding Tibet that had come up during my research.

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Two Useful Resources for Handling the Information Overload

As a student of International Affairs in the media age, I find the greatest obstacle to expanding one’s understanding of particular regions, conflicts, or histories is not a lack of information but an overwhelming abundance of perspectives, arguments, and theories. Given the multitude of choices available, debates within classes or personal conversations appear shockingly void of shared, basic information, and finding textured histories of issues as opposed to newswire updates is consistently difficult.

As a result, I wanted to share two resources I find extremely helpful in not only giving me updated information about complex issues but also appropriate context. The first is a host of resources created by the Council on Foreign Relations for high school and university students. CFR’s resources are both detailed and general with specific issue guides on topics ranging from the American and Iran nuclear deal to the relative voting power of Germany to more general interactive resources on more complex issues such as Chinese Martine Disputes or the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Although advanced students may find these guides simplistic, individuals interested in not just CNN updates but historical and political context will find it much more helpful than haphazard Wikipedia searches.

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