mfioretti: asia*

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  1. In the city of Kampot in southern Cambodia, the extraction of sand from an estuary on the Praek Tuek Chhu river is increasing and sand extraction is so common in Asia currently that the continent may deplete all of its sand in the not-too-distant future.

    A 2016 investigation revealed that Singapore imported some $752 million in sand from Cambodia. However, Cambodia only reported that they had exported $5.5 million worth of sand to Singapore. The discrepancy between the figures compelled officials in both countries to curb all sand exports in July.

    "It was a systematic fraud," said Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of Mother Nature, an environmental group in Cambodia. "Taxes were evaded for 95 percent of the exports."

    Other countries in Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, have restricted sand exports over the last few years due to environmental damage. In the same vein, India had limited licenses for sand exportation.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-07)
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  2. although Washington possesses a wide range of tools to exert its influence on regional players, the US' geopolitical position has weakened, French journalist and founder of Agora Erasmus organization Karel Vereycken believes.

    "The ongoing tectonic shift is that most Europeans, inside or outside the EU structure, are increasingly attracted by the future-oriented initiatives of the BRICS, the Chinese New Silk Road initiative and Russia's Eurasian Economic Union. The perspective of a win-win strategy of mutual cooperation, driven by innovation and the sharing of benefits, is the only basis for a multi-polar world order and avoiding war," Vereycken highlighted in his recent interview with Sputnik.

    Police patrol outside the Great Hall of the People before the opening session at the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing on March 3, 2012.
    © AFP 2016/ Mark Ralston
    Rising Economy: 'US Can't Compete With China Due to Deep National Debt'
    The French journalist pointed out that the Obama administration has also "lost its » pivot in Asia and keeps losing ground in Syria."

    For his part, Malaysian academic Mathew Maavak called attention to the fact that "one by one, Asia Pacific nations are seeing no economic value in being allied to the United States and they are opting out of the US geo-economic and geopolitical orbits."

    Professor Zhang Baohui, Chinese analyst of Lingnan University in Hong Kong, echoes Maavak.

    "The US is not in a position to compete with China because it is now deeply backed down with national debt and deficit spending, so it is in no way able to compete with China on either an economic or financial front," the professor told Sputnik, commenting on the Philippines and Malaysia's shift to China.

    No matter how hard the US has tried to implement the so-called Wolfowitz doctrine over the last two decades, the US unipolar era has come to an end.

    "The US unipolar era lasted less than 25 years, its end hastened by overambitious wars and the financial crisis of 2007-08," former British intelligence chief Sir Robert John Sawers noted in his op-ed for The Financial Times, "For better or worse, we are returning to a world of great power balance."
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  3. by far the most important chart in explaining both the benefits and impact of globalization, free trade, and a changing economy to different constituencies. The greatest benefactors of the extension of the Bretton Woods System (free trade and globalization) following the end of the Cold War have been those who own capital and the poorest people in the world. Unfortunately, as money has moved from the Developed Economies to the Developing World in search of return and comparative advantage, the middle class in the United States and Europe have failed to benefit.
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  4. se questa tendenza dovesse continuare, per i cattolici in Africa, in Asia e in America Latina si prepara un futuro con più fedeli ma meno preti. Un dato che non potrebbe non andare a incidere profondamente sul volto complessivo della Chiesa del XXI secolo.,News.html#
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  5. the 'peaceful rise' narrative is severely under question when one looks at China's behavior in the geopolitical realm, particularly with respect to its weaker neighbors. In an effort to augment its sovereignty claims over what it considers as its national "blue soil," China has inadvertently encouraged a growing number of nations to coalesce against it. One could argue that China has overplayed its hand, unleashing a dangerous strategic dynamic that threatens the whole region.

    Throughout the early years of this decade, China rapidly and inexorably altered the maritime status quo in East Asia, wresting control of Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal and deploying a giant oil rig into Vietnamese-claimed waters in the South China Sea. In possession of cutting-edge technology, and confidently overseeing decades of relentless military modernization as well as paramilitary mobilization, China has transformed a whole host of contested low-tide elevations (LTEs), atolls, shoals and rocks into full-fledged islands. Within twenty months, it has reclaimed seventeen times more land than the other claimants combined over the past four decades.

    While such a massive geoengineering project has strengthened its hand on the ground, allowing Beijing to project power from these features across the South China Sea, it has angered regional and external powers and gradually unleashed a robust countercurrent to its plans of local domination. Beijing's whiplash approach to regional territorial disputes is undermining its own interests as well as that of the whole region

    While it is easy to dismiss the Philippines's legal maneuver as naïve and inconsequential, especially since arbitration bodies under UNCLOS lack compliance-enforcement mechanisms, it would be shortsighted to overlook the strategic consequence of Manila's bold move to take Beijing to court.

    Non-claimant states such as Singapore, which has welcomed permanent American naval presence on its soil as a hedge against China, have repeatedly called for the resolution of the South China Sea disputes in accordance with international law. This could be interpreted as an implicit statement of support for the Philippines's arbitration case against China. Even the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has grappled with internal divisions and institutional atrophy, has emphasized the necessity for the rule-based resolution of the disputes.

    With the Philippines successfully overcoming the jurisdiction and admissibility hurdle, other regional states are in a position to also threaten China with a similar suit. While Vietnam has been dangling such option for quite some time, and is now carefully preparing its case, even non-claimant states such as Indonesia, which are fearful of China's maritime assertiveness and welcomed greater military cooperation with America, have threatened to take China to court.

    In effect, the Philippines has unleashed a "legal multiplier," which presents China with the prospect of multiple arbitration showdowns. If anything, since other regional states can now more credibly threaten China with a similar legal action, they are in a position to, at the very least, extract certain concessions in exchange for not filing a case per se.

    While China obviously has the option of rejecting any unfavorable arbitration verdict, the prospect of multiple legal suits will seriously undermine the Middle Kingdom's claim to regional leadership and peaceful rise. Thanks to the Philippines's lawfare, China could soon be branded as an international outlaw by a third-party arbitration body composed of one of the world's leading legal experts.
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  6. Russia publicly humiliated him by demonstrating that his assessment wasn’t true at all, and that Caspian-based naval assets could be used to support the country’s units in Syria. By responding in a manner that had been so unexpected for Brzezinski to conceive of, Russia’s strategists highlighted just how stale the thinking of the US’ geopolitical ‘gray cardinal’ has become.

    Russia Will Muster All Domains To Fight Terrorism:

    NATO was aghast at what Secretary General Stoltenberg termed “a troubling escalation” after the cruise missile strikes were launched, but what really troubles the military bloc is that Russia has once more shown its willingness to harness all available domains when involved in a conflict. While ground troops are out of the equation, the armaments, equipment, and training that Russia provides to the Syrian Arab Army make for a suitable substitute in this situation, and the Russian Aerospace forces had previously taken the lead in the anti-terrorist struggle. Now, one can add the Russian Navy to the list of the country’s armed forces that are active in the war, and the sea-air interaction between it and its Aerospace counterparts is what really scares NATO the most.

    There Are No More Excuses For US Civilian Causalities:

    The US and its associated information organs had made quite a stink over the past couple of years about how far ‘behind’ Russia supposedly is when compared to the West, especially in the military sphere through its accused deference to ‘hybrid wars’, hence why it should have been all the more surprising to their citizens (and the policy makers that actually believe their own propaganda) that Russia could carry out a 1,500 kilometer-long cruise missile strike with pinpoint precision.

    Russia’s military success in accurately hitting all far-off targets comes right after a US airstrike in Afghanistan “mistakenly” destroyed a less distantly located hospital operated by the Doctors Without Borders NGO. Put another way, Russian missiles purposefully hit the right terrorist targets from as far away as the distance between Washington DC and Miami, but American gunships can’t hit the Taliban from a distance at most equivalent to the length of Washington DC. This dramatic comparison says all that one needs to know about the inexcusability of American-inflicted casualties across the globe, and questions whether they’re just the result of poorly trained operators or part of a more nefarious “shock-and-awe” strategy of intimidation.
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  7. Hungary on Saturday (6 June) became the first EU country to sign up to China's flagship trade initiative, which aims to revitalise the historic silk route that for centuries connected Europe and the Far East.

    The Chinese project is “one of the most significant concepts in world trade”, said Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, during a visit to Budapest by his Chinese colleague Wang Yi.
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  8. By defining structured information about the world, gazetteers have the power to shape and structure how geographic meaning is made. There are hundreds of millions of requests for geographic information from GeoNames each month, such as the New York Times using the gazetteer to link articles to places. This means that the biases in gazetteers influence how we are able to understand all sorts of other data that we use in everyday life.

    Gazetteers are gatekeepers to knowledge of place. By not appearing in gazetteers, places are unlikely to ever become present and visible in other geocoded datasets. And because so much additional research, analysis, and visualisation by relies on using large gazetteers like GeoNames, the biases that we see here are only likely to be propagated throughout our digital ecosystem.

    This research shows that we need to question the very ground-truths that we’re using to create and understand geographic data and services: because geographic data has its own uneven geographies.
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  9. WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States needs to set the rules on trade while its economy is still strong before China does, US President Barack Obama said during a news conference to promote his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal at the Nike headquarters in Oregon on Friday.

    "We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy and we should do it today while our economy is in the position of global strength because if we do not write the rules for trade around the world, guess what, China will,” Obama said.

    Obama’s remarks came at a time US Congress is deciding whether to pass what is poised to become the largest free trade deal to date.

    Do the TIPP and TPP Treaties Signal the Rise of the One World Government?
    The TPP would include some 12 countries from the Asia-Pacific region — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States — and is expected to cover at least 40 percent of the global economy.

    The TTP negotiations, however, coincide with China’s plans to start the $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with a view to financing infrastructure projects in Asia.
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  10. Even though the question is loaded with a lot of questionable assumptions, I'll try to answer as objectively as possible.

    Tl;dr: geographical features of the country make it quite hard to develop and challenging to carry out trade (domestic and foreign). To make matters worse, we suffered significant setbacks roughly every 50 years and had no one to help us

    Let's dissect this piece by piece. I'll describe the factors I outlined above and will try to explain how they influenced the economic development of my country.

    First, let me stress that wealth is not built within one or even two generations - it requires a lot of hard work building over centuries (unless others are helping). Therefore I'll start with geography as a principal factor that determined the speed of accrual of productive capital in Russia.

    I) The country is not particularly welcome to people living here.
    It's in the north! Russia's southernmost point (one of the peaks of the North Caucasus) is at 42,2 degrees North or equator. This roughly corresponds to New York/Boston or Cleveland. This means it's cold over here (duh!). Having no seas nearby (which is an issue to be covered separately below) means that the climate here is tougher than in other places of the same latitude (i.e. elsewhere in Europe). Speaking from personal experience as someone who lived for 17 years in West Siberia, even without permafrost having winter that lasts roughly 8 months is tough.

    How does it translate to obstacles to economic development? First, agriculture is an uphill battle: we do have vast fertile steppe plains, but they are prone to frost and droughts, and output from an acre will inevitably be lower than in other places. Second, infrastructure is more difficult to build: you need more building materials to properly insulate the housing and roads are more prone to degradation when they freeze and unfreeze several times a year. Third, we are bound to be less energy efficient because we simply need more energy to keep our houses warm (and more calories to stay alive).

    To sum up, simply living in Russia requires relatively more resources just to survive than living anywhere else.

    II) Russia's geography hinders rather than enforces trade, domestic and international.
    Trade is the bloodstream of economy, since moving things around is important to economic growth. Moving stuff around by water (sea and rivers) is always cheaper than moving stuff by land (and in the past it was also less dangerous since on land you could be ambushed and robbed by rogues more easily). It can be argued that most of the countries that were the richest during their times relied heavily on waterways to build wealth. By contrast, world's poorest countries are mostly landlocked (think Chad or Mali). The Hansa, Venetian and Genoese republics, Portugal, The Netherlands, Great Britain and currently the U.S. (and for the U.S. the vital waterway is the world ocean as a whole) all relied (or rely) on waterways to facilitate trade.

    Russia has no such luxury. Domestically, most rivers flow either into the Caspian (a lake), or into the Arctic Ocean. Sole notable exceptions are Dnieper and Don. Unfortunately, most of these rivers are frozen over the winter due to Point I.

    For foreign trade purposes, Russia is essentially landlocked. It's European part has access to the Baltic, Black and White seas, but the first two are inland seas (and the entry / exit is not controlled by Russia - hence our obsession with Turkish straits for 200 years).

    Compared to Europe (which has Rhein, Elbe, Loire, Danube and also Baltic and Mediterranean Seas to facilitate trade), Russia has no waterways of similar quality and can not be easily connected to those trade hubs. It is restricted to using inland transportation, which is not an easy task for land which is frozen for the biggest part of the year.

    To sum up, Russia has to work much harder to ensure the flow of raw materials, finished goods and people.

    III) Russia experienced huge setbacks throughout its history, including five catastrophic ones every 50 years for the past two centuries

    Russia is big and it's very hard to defend effectively. Its core is vast plains which are open to invasion. Until the 17th century we were constantly harrassed from the steppes to our east and south (first Mongols later Tatars). Countless towns were repeatedly burnt and pillaged during these raids and thousands of Russians were enslaved. The raids stopped only when the tsars went on counter-offensive and conquered the steppes - the last serious foe was Crimean khanate that was annexed in the 18th century under Catherine the Great. It can be argued that it was continued Russian resistance to Mongols and Tatars that kept Europe from being burnt to the ground by them - they were too exhausted to continue their onslaught westwards.

    There were numerous invasions from the West as well: Teutonic Knights, Swedes and Poles at some points in time all did this.

    However, the 19th and 20th centuries that were the bloodiest and the most devastating to Russia's economy.
    1812: Napoleon invades Russia and gets his ass kicked but only because we burn our cities to ashes
    1853: Russia fights three great powers (Great Britain, France and Ottoman Empire) plus Sardinia in the Crimean war and loses
    1914: First World War erupts and Russia fights Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans on the Eastern front.
    1917: Bolshevik revolution, disintegration of the country, invasions by Great Britain, France and Japan, civil war, invasion from Poland, than famine and misery.
    1941: Hitler invades, it's us against the German War Machine that has control over the whole Europe (allies did help with supplies, and they helped a lot, but it's us who did most of the fighting). 27 million die, the European part of the country is destroyed. No Marshall plan for Russia afterwards, we're on our own against the world. Good luck rebuilding your economy after the bloodiest war in history when half the world (including the world's most powerful contry) wants you dead.
    1991: the Soviet Union collapses. The country disintegrates, supply chains get broken, inflation and organized crime rampant. Millions of people see their world shattered. Theoretical physicists sell newspapers on the streets, rocket scientists rely on home-grown potatoes not to starve. Oligarchs overtake the industries. Does the West help? Nope. No aid for Ivan, we have to rebuild stuff on our own again.

    Look, I'm not saying that our government is not corrupt, or that communist economy was great for us (it was not). I just want to say that there are a lot of objective factors due to which we are not as rich as <insert country name here>. Hopefully this gives you a fuller picture of how our rough past contributed to our rough present.
    Tags: , , , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-05-07)
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