Tuesday, October 19, 2010

China's Rising Star

Folks who follow international news are likely aware that China is becoming more and more prosperous, and by extension more powerful year by year. Since the death of Mao in the 1970s, economic reorientation has brought the Chinese economy to almost unimaginable heights. They have maintained 10% GDP growth ever year since the early 90s, and now have the second largest economy in the world, surpassed only by the United States. With the US economy on the downturn, it is not uncommon for me to hear people say that China is set to become the new dominant world power. However, as I've pointed out before, media hyperbole, and actual fact are much different things, so I'm here to briefly address China's social and economic stability.

Here's the deal: China is arguably the most powerful country, economically, in the world now. They have experienced unprecedented growth, and are still in the possession of enormous economic surplussed, while most of the rest of the world is in debt. Nearly every powerful country in the world, including ours, would like to see China become a democracy, mostly because it would allow us to influence their economic policies in a way that would be more favorable to us. Bodies like the UN want China to adopt humanitarian measures that would open up their society to greater social freedoms. The very simple fact is that none of this is going to work, because not a single one of us can back it up. China owns most of the US debt through various governments bonds, meaning there is not one bit of leverage we can bring to bear against them. As a member of the Security Council, China is practically immune to international pressure of almost any kind. It is reasonable to label them as a great power, because in many senses, they cannot be touched by anyone else.

It is for many of these reasons that China is predicted to replace the US at the top of the international totem pole. It is for others, however, that I would argue that China cannot maintain its current society as is. Political scientists have noted a tendency within various countries that as they become more wealthy, they also tend to become more democratic. This principle, called post-materialist values, while unproven statistically is nevertheless compelling. The idea is that as people become less concerned about providing themselves and their families with the basic necessities of life, they become more interested in freedom of expression, and influence in political discourse. This poses a particular danger to China as it brings in even more wealth.

There is also the simple fact that dictator-like countries are not stable. The particular characteristics of what we call authoritarian regimes prevent long term stability. So while China may survive and continue to grow in the next several decades, there are a vast number difficulties they would have to overcome in order to survive in their current state while continuing to grow and maintain their influence. Just something to keep in mind. If you're interested in more on this subject, click on the title to view an article on China in the coming years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From the Security of a Computer

If you've ever taken the time to stop by the Daily Lobo's website and read some of the comments posted there, you'll have noticed that people can be rather vicious in their remarks. When it comes to the Opinion pieces especially I have seen some truly ignorant things thrown back and forth between people. It made me think some more about the continued effects of the internet on modern communication. It seems to me that not having to look another person in the eye when you're speaking to them has strongly reduced the tactfulness of society. Can you imagine two people throwing around the kinds of insults you see on internet forums if they were having a conversation in person? Maybe it's a good thing that people aren't mincing words online the way they do in person, but to me that seems hypocritical. If you're not willing to say something to a person's face, I don't think you should be saying it to their forum avatar.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who's Your Oil Daddy?

As a political add on to Kate's last post, I thought it would be interesting to address the political side of things like the oil crisis. The recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast points to a rising trend in off shore oil drilling all over the world as an alternative to land based oil drilling. Why is this? Because the vast majority of oil resources to be found on land are almost totally depleted. Which is why drilling in Alaska, and off the coasts has become such a big thing.

However, offshore drilling has a number of dangers, the most prevelant of which we witnessed with this recent oil spill. Far from being the norm, such spills are much more common occurrences in offshore oil operations, than land based ones. Meaning that while few are likely to have the magnitude of the one in the spring, such spills are only likely to continue.

Of course, the biggest question (aside from complete destruction of oceanic environments) is what happens once the oil in the seas is gone too? The answer, as some might guess, is buy from Saudi Arabia. The large desert country, long the world's largest producer of oil, might soon be the world's only producer of oil. According to some estimates Saudi Arabia has only used 10% of their total oil resources. In however many decades, when all other oil resources have been exhausted, Saudi Arabia will still be going strong with production.

So who's your oil daddy? That would be Saudi Arabia.