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[Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization. Oxford University Press. Oxford (New York), 2006. 822 p.]
review / Salvador Sánchez Tapia
Among the many authors who have written on the phenomenon of war in recent decades, the name of Azar Gat stands out. From his Chair at Tel-Aviv University, this author has devoted an important part of his academic degree program to theorising on the war from different angles, a phenomenon that he knows directly from his position as a reservist in the Tsahal (Israeli Defence Forces).
War in Human Civilization is a monumental work in which the author sample his great erudition, together with his ability to deal with and study the phenomenon of war, combining the employment of fields of knowledge as diverse as history, Economics, biology, archaeology and anthropology, placing them at the service of the goal of his work, which is none other than that of elucidating what has moved and moves human groups towards war.
Throughout the almost seven hundred pages of this extensive work, Gat makes a study of the historical evolution of the phenomenon of war in which he combines a chronological approach, which we could call "conventional", with a synchronic one in which he puts in parallel similar stages of the evolution of war in different civilisations in order to compare cultures which, at a given historical moment, were at different Degrees of development and show how in all of them war went through a similar process of evolution.
In his initial approach, Gat promises an analysis that transcends any particular culture to consider the evolution of war in a general way, from its inception to the present day. The promise, however, is broken when he reaches the medieval period, for from then on he adopts a distinctly Eurocentric view, which he justifies with the argument that the Western model of war has been exported to other continents and adopted by other cultures, which, while not entirely false, leaves the reader with a somewhat incomplete view of the phenomenon.
Azar Gat dives into the origin of the human species to try to elucidate whether the phenomenon of war makes it different from the rest of the species, and to try to determine whether conflict is an innate phenomenon in the species or whether, on the contrary, it is a learned behaviour.
On the first question, the book concludes that nothing makes us different from other species because, despite Rousseaunian visions based on the "good savage" that were so in vogue in the 1960s, the reality sample is that intra-species violence, which was considered to be unique to humans, is in fact something shared with other species. On the second question, Gat takes the eclectic view that aggression is both innate and optional, a basic survival choice that is nonetheless exercised optionally, and developed through social learning.
Throughout the book's historical journey, the idea, formulated in the first chapters, that the ultimate causes of war are evolutionary in nature and have to do with the struggle for the survival of the species, appears as a leitmotif.
According to this approach, conflict would be rooted in competition for resources and better reproductive opportunities. Although the human development towards increasingly complex societies has eventually obscured it, this logic would still guide human behaviour today, mainly through the bequest of proximate mechanisms implied by human desires.
An important chapter in the book is the author's dissection of the theory, first advanced during the Enlightenment, of the Democratic Peace. Gat does not refute the theory, but puts it in a new light. If, in its original definition, it argues that liberal and democratic regimes are averse to war and that, therefore, the spread of liberalism will advance peace among nations, Gat argues that it is the growth of wealth that actually serves that spread, and that welfare and the interrelationship that trade fosters are the real drivers of democratic peace.
Two are, therefore, the two main conclusions of the work: that conflict is the rule in a nature in which organisms compete with each other for survival and reproduction in an environment of scarce resources, and that, recently, the development of liberalism in the western world has generated in this environment a feeling of repugnance towards war that translates into an almost absolute rejection of it in favour of other strategies based on cooperation.
Azar Gat recognises that a significant part of the human race is still a long way from liberal and democratic models, let alone the achievement of Degree of well-being and wealth, which, in his view, goes hand in hand with the rejection of war. Although he does not say so openly, it can be inferred from his speech that this is, nevertheless, the direction in which humanity is heading and that, the day it reaches the necessary conditions for this, war will finally be eradicated from the Earth.
Against this idea, one could argue the ever-present possibility of regression of the liberal system due to the demographic pressure to which it is subjected, or because of some global event that provokes it; or that other systems, equally rich but not liberal, will replace the world of democracies in world domination.
reference letter The book is a must for any scholar or reader interested in the nature and evolution of the phenomenon of war, and is a must for any scholar or reader interested in the nature and evolution of the phenomenon of war. Written with great erudition, and with a profusion of data that, at times, makes it somewhat harsh, War in Human Civilization is, without a doubt, an important contribution to the knowledge of war that is essential reading.
The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in offshore wells puts the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighbouring Guyana.
The intuition has proved to be correct, and explorations carried out under Suriname's territorial waters, together with the successful hydrocarbon reserves that are being exploited in Guyana's maritime borders, have found abundant oil. The finding could be a decisive boost for the development of what is, after Guyana, the second poorest country in South America, but it could also be an opportunity, as with its neighbour, to accentuate the economic and political corruption that has been hindering the progress of the population.
Suriname's presidential palace in the country's capital, Paramaribo [Ian Mackenzie].
article / Álvaro de Lecea
So far this year, drilling in two offshore fields in Suriname has been positive result , confirming the existence of "significant" oil in block 58, operated by France's Total, in partnership with US-based Apache. Everything indicates that the same success could be obtained in block 52, operated by the also American ExxonMobil and the Malaysian Petronas, which were pioneers in prospecting in Surinamese waters with operations since 2016.
Both blocks adjoin the fields under the waters of neighbouring Guyana, where it is currently estimated that there are some 3.2 billion barrels of extractable oil. In the case of Suriname, exploration in the first viable field, Maka Central-1, discovered in January 2020, indicates 300 million barrels, but estimates from Sapakara West-1, discovered in April, and subsequent planned exploration, have yet to be added. It is estimated that some 15 billion barrels of oil reserves may exist in the Guyana-Suriname basin.
Until this new oil era in the Guianas (the former British and Dutch Guianas; the French Guianas remains an overseas dependency of France), Suriname was considered to have reserves of 99 million barrels, which at the current rate of exploitation left two decades to deplete. In 2016, the country produced just 16,400 barrels per day.
status political, economic and social
With just under 600,000 inhabitants, Suriname is the least populated country in South America. Its Economics is heavily dependent on the export of metals and minerals, especially bauxite. The fall in commodity prices since 2014 has particularly affected the country's accounts. GDP contracted by 3.4% in 2015 and by 5.6% in 2016. Although the trend then turned positive again, the IMF forecasts a 4.9% drop in GDP for 2020, as a result of the global crisis caused by Covid-19.
Since gaining independence from the Netherlands in 1975, its weak democracy has suffered three coups d'état. Two of them were led by the same person: Desi Bouterse, the country's president until this July. Bouterse staged a coup in 1980 and remained in power indirectly until 1988. During those years, he kept Suriname under a dictatorship. In 1990 he staged another coup d'état, although this time he resigned the presidency. He was accused of the 1982 murder of 15 political opponents, in a long judicial process that finally ended in December 2019 with a twenty-year prison sentence, which is now being appealed by Bouterse. He has also been convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands, for which the resulting international arrest warrant prevents him from leaving Suriname. His son Dino has also been convicted of drug and arms trafficking and is in prison in the United States. Bouterse's Suriname has come to be presented as the paradigm of the mafia state.
In 2010 Desi Bouterse won the elections as candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP); in 2015 he was re-elected for another five years. In the 25 May elections, despite some controversial measures to limit the options of the civil service examination, he lost to Chan Santokhi, leader of the Progressive Reform Party (VHP). He tried to delay the counting and validation of votes, citing the health emergency caused by the coronavirus, but the new National Assembly was finally constituted at the end of June and is due to appoint the country's new president in July.
Total's operations in Surinamese and Guyanese waters [Total].
Relationship with Venezuela
Suriname intends to use the prospect of the oil bonanza to strengthen Staatsolie, the state oil company. In January, before the Covid-19 crisis became widespread, it announced purpose to expand its presence in the bond market in 2020 and also, conditions permitting, to list its shares in London or New York. This would serve to raise up to $2 billion to finance the national oil company's exploration campaign over the next few years.
On the other hand, Venezuela's territorial claims against Guyana, which affect the Essequibo - the western half of the former British colony - and which are being studied by the International Court of Justice, include part of the maritime space in which Guyana is extracting oil, but do not affect the case of Suriname, whose delimitations are outside the scope of this long-standing dispute.
Venezuela and Suriname have maintained special relations during Chavismo and while Desi Bouterse has been in power. On occasions, a certain connection has been made between drug trafficking under the protection of the Chavista authorities and that attributed to Bouterse. The offer made by Bouterse's son to Hezbollah to have training camps in Suriname, for which he was arrested in 2015 in Panama at the request of the United States and tried in New York, can be understood in light of the relationship between Chavism and Hezbollah, to whose operatives Caracas has provided passports to facilitate their movements. Suriname has supported Venezuela in regional forums at times of international pressure against the regime of Nicolás Maduro. In addition, the country has increasingly strengthened its relations with Russia and China, from which in December 2019 it secured the commitment of a new credit .
With the political change of the last elections, Maduro's Venezuela has in principle lost a close ally, while gaining an oil competitor (at least as long as Venezuelan oil exploitation remains at a low level).
High incidence of Covid-19 in the country contrasts with the government's swiftness in implementing measures
Peru has been an example in the Covid-19 crisis for its speed in applying containment measures and for approve one of the largest economic stimulus packages in the world, close to 17% of GDP. However, the high incidence of the pandemic, which has made Peru the second Latin American country in terms of cases of the coronavirus and the third in terms of deaths, has made it necessary to prolong the restrictions on activity longer than expected. This and lower external demand, weaker than initially predicted, have "more than eclipsed" the government's significant economic support, according to the IMF, which forecasts a 13.9% drop in GDP for Peru in 2020, the largest of the region's main economies.
lecture of the Peruvian President, Martín Vizcarra (r), in the presence of the head of Economics, María Antonieta Alva (l) [Gov. of Peru].
ARTICLE / Gabriela Pajuelo
International media such as Bloomberg y The Wall Street Journal have shown admiration for Peru's young minister of Economics , María Antonieta Alva. At 35, with a master's degree from Harvard and some experience in Peru's own administration, Alva designed one of the most ambitious economic stimulus plans in all of South America at the beginning of the crisis.
"From a Latin perspective, Peru is a clear leader in terms of macro response; I could have imagined a very different result if Toni wasn't there," he said. Ricardo HausmannAlva's Harvard professor, who is leading a team of experts advising Peru and ten other countries on how to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. The minister has also become one of the best-known faces of President Martin Vizcarra's government among the working classes.
Peru was one of the first countries in Latin America to apply a state of emergency, limiting the freedom of meeting and transit in Peruvian territory and restricting economic activity. To prevent mass infection with the virus, the government decreed the closure of borders, restrictions on interprovincial movement, a daily curfew and a mandatory period of national isolation, which has been extended several times and has become one of the longest in the world.
This prolongation, agreed in the face of the high incidence of the pandemic, has damaged the economic outlook more than expected. Moreover, the prolongation of the emergency in countries to which Peru's exports are destined has weakened their demand for raw materials and damaged the resurgence of Peru's Economics . This is the IMF's estimate, which between its April forecast and the one updated in June has added nine more points to the fall in Peru's GDP for 2020. The IMF now considers that Peru's Economics will fall by 13.9% this year, the largest among the region's major countries. Although the ambitious stimulus package will not have prevented this decline, it will boost the recovery, with GDP rising by 6.5% in 2021, the strongest rebound among the largest Latin American economies. With regard to the latter forecast, the IMF specifies that, nevertheless, "there are significant risks to leave , linked to national and global challenges to control the epidemic".
A socio-economic context that does not financial aid to containment
Despite restrictive social distancing measures, the pandemic has had a high incidence in Peru, with 268,602 diagnosed cases (second only to Brazil in Latin America) and 8,761 deaths (behind Brazil and Mexico) as of 25 June. These high figures are partly due to the fact that the country's socio-economic conditions have meant that compliance with containment has not been very strict in certain situations. The social context has made it difficult to respect the mandatory quarantine due to structural problems such as the fragility of health services and infrastructure, the difficulty of efficient public procurement, prison overcrowding and the digital divide.
The high level of labour informalityThe fact that in 2019 it was 72% explains why many people have to continue working to ensure their subsistence, without following certain protocols or having access to certain material; at the same time, this informality prevents greater tax collection that would help to improve budgetary items such as health. Peru is the second Latin American country with the lowest health investment.
On the other hand, inequalitywhich in 2018 was 42.8 in the Gini index, is aggravated by the territorial distribution of expense, linked to the centralisation of employment of the rural population in Lima. During the pandemic, workers from the country's highlands who have migrated to the capital have wanted to return to their places of origin, as many are not on the payroll and have no labour rights, in contravention of the restrictions of mobility.
This social context makes it possible to question some of the economic measures approved, according to some Peruvian academics. The president of high school Peruano de Economics (IPE), Roberto Abusada, warned that Peru's macroeconomic strengths will not help forever. He considered that certain regulations are unenforceableThe "setting parameters such as body mass index (BMI) or an age limit, creates obstacles for this group of people, who could be highly qualified, and could not return to their centre of work".
In late April, Minister Alva presented a $26 billion economic stimulus package, representing 12 per cent of GDP. Additional measures a month later raised that percentage to 14.4 per cent of GDP, and even then it would have been closer to 17 per cent. Comparatively speaking, this is one of the largest stimulus packages adopted in the world (in Latin America, the second largest is Brazil, with a stimulus of 11.5 per cent of GDP).
From agreement with the monitoring that the IMF Peru has adopted measures in three different areas: fiscal, monetary and macro-financial, and in terms of the exchange rate and the balance of payments.
First, in terms of fiscal measures, the government approved 1.1 billion soles (0.14% of GDP) to address the health emergency. In addition, various measures have been implemented, among which two stand out: the "Stay at home" voucher and the creation of the Business Support Fund for Micro and Small Enterprises (FAE-MYPE).
The first measure, for which the government approved approximately 3.4 billion soles (0.4% of GDP) in direct transfers, is a 380 soles (US$110) voucher targeted at poor households and vulnerable populations, of which there have been two disbursements. The second measure concerns the creation of a fund of 300 million soles (0.04% of GDP) to support MSEs, in an attempt to guarantee credit for capital for work and to restructure or refinance their debts.
Among other fiscal measures, the government approved a three-month extension of the income tax declaration for SMEs, some flexibility for businesses and households in paying tax obligations and a deferral of household electricity and water payments. The whole package of fiscal support amounts to more than 7% of GDP.
On the other hand, in terms of monetary and macro-financial measures, the Central Bank reservation (BCR) reduced the reserve requirement rate by 200 basis points, bringing it to 4%, and is monitoring the evolution of inflation and its determinants to increase monetary stimulus if necessary. It has also reduced reserves requirements , provided liquidity to the system with a package backed by government guarantees of 60 billion soles (more than 8% of GDP) to support lending and the chain of payments.
In addition, exchange rate and balance of payments measures have been implemented through the BCR's intervention in the foreign exchange market. By 28 May, the BCR had sold approximately USD 2 billion (0.9% of GDP) in foreign exchange swaps. International reserves remain significant, at more than 30% of GDP.
On the other hand, in the field of trade relations, Peru agreed not to impose restrictions on foreign trade operations, while at the same time liberalising the loading of goods, speeding up the issuance of certificates of origin, temporarily eliminating some tariffs and waiving various infractions and penalties contained in the General Customs Law. This was particularly the case for transactions with strategic partners, as the European UnionAccording to Alberto Almendres, the president of Eurochambres (the association of European Chambers in Peru). 50% of foreign investment in Peru comes from Europe.
In terms of Peruvian exports, although the emergence of the coronavirus in China at the beginning of the year slowed down transactions with that country, mining and agricultural exports remained positive. in the first two months of the yearas indicated in the high school research and of the Lima Chamber of Commerce. development (Idexcam). Subsequently, exports of raw materials and tourism have been more affected, especially in the case of exports of raw materials and tourism.
Comparison with Chile and Colombia
The status in Peru can be analysed in comparison with its neighbours Chile and Colombia, which will have a somewhat smaller fall in GDP in 2020, although their recovery will also be somewhat smaller.
issue As for the issue of confirmed Covid-19 cases as of 25 June, Chile (259,064 cases) is similar in size to Peru (268,602), although the number of deaths is almost half that of Peru (4,903 Chileans and 8,761 Peruvians), which corresponds to the proportion of its total population.
In response to the pandemic, Chilean authorities implemented a series of measures, including the declaration of a state of catastrophe, travel restrictions, school closures, curfews and bans on public gatherings, and a teleworking law. This crisis came just months after the social unrest experienced in the country in the last quarter of 2019.
On the economic front, Chile approved a stimulus of 6.7% of GDP. On 19 March, the authorities presented a fiscal package of up to $11.75 billion focused on supporting employment and corporate liquidity (4.7% of OPIB), and on 8 April an additional $2 billion of financial aid to vulnerable households was announced, as well as a $3 billion (2%) guarantee plan from credit . In its June forecast update , the IMF expects Chile's GDP to fall by 7.5% in 2020 and increase by 5% in 2021.
In Colombia, the level of contagion has been lower (77,313 cases and 2,611 deaths), and its economic package to cope with the crisis has also been smaller: 2.8 per cent of GDP. The government created a National Emergency Mitigation Fund, which will be partially financed by regional and stabilisation funds (around 1.5 per cent of GDP), complemented by the issuance of national bonds and other budgetary resources (1.3 per cent). In its recent update, the IMF forecasts that Colombia's GDP will fall by 7.8% in 2020 and rise by 4% in 2021.
[Tae-Hwan Kwak and Seung-Ho Joo (eds). One Korea: visions of Korean unification. Routledge. New York, 2017. 234 p.]
review / Eduardo Uranga
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, tensions between superpowers in East Asia made this part of the world a hotspot of the International Office. Tensions remain today, such as the trade war that has pitted the United States against the People's Republic of China since 2018. However, over the past 70 years, one territory in particular has been affected by an ongoing conflict that has repeatedly claimed the world's attention. That region is undoubtedly the Korean peninsula.
This book, co-edited by Tae-Hwan Kwak and Seung-Ho Joo and bringing together various experts on inter-Korean relations, discusses the various possibilities for a future reunification of the two Koreas, as well as the various problems that need to be solved in order to achieve this goal. The perspectives of the various world powers on the conflict are also analysed.
The Korean issue dates back to World War II: after the country was occupied by Japan, its liberation ended up dividing the peninsula in two: North Korea (occupied by the Soviet Union) and South Korea (controlled by the United States). Between 1950 and 1953, the two halves fought a conflict, which eventually consolidated the partition, with a demilitarised zone in between known as the 38th Parallel or KDZ.
One of the formulas for Korean unification described in this book is unification through neutralisation, proposal by both Koreas. However, the constant long-range nuclear missile tests carried out by North Korea in recent years present a major obstacle to this formula. In this atmosphere of mistrust, Korean citizens play an important role in promoting cooperation and friendship on both sides of the border with the goal aim of achieving North Korea's denuclearisation.
Another aspect that plays an important role in forcing a change in North Korea's attitude is its strategic culture. This must be differentiated from the traditional Korean strategic culture. North Korea has adopted various unification strategies over the years, while maintaining the same principles and values. This strategic culture blends elements from the country's strategic position (geopolitically), history and national values. All of this is under the authority of the Juche ideology. This ideology contains some militaristic elements and promotes the unification of Korea through armed conflict and revolutionary actions.
Regarding the perspectives of the various world superpowers on future Korean reunification, China has stated that it favours a long-term approach to unification deadline; a short-term process deadline would collide with Chinese national interests, as Beijing would first have to settle its disputes with Taiwan, or end the trade war against the United States. China has stated that it will not accept Korean unification influenced by a military alliance between the US and South Korea.
On the other hand, the US has not yet opted for a specific Korean unification policy. Since the 1950s, the Korean peninsula has been but one part of the overall US strategic policy for the entire Asia-Pacific region.
The unification of the Korean peninsula will be truncated as long as the US, China and other powers in the region continue to recognise the status quo on the peninsula. It could be argued that armed conflict might be the only way to achieve unification. According to the authors of this book, this would be too costly in terms of resources used and human lives lost. On the other hand, such a war could trigger a conflict on a global scale.
The trade dependence between the two countries - greater in the case of Brazil, but the Chinese also need certain Brazilian products, such as soybeans - ensures understanding between the two countries.
The relationship between Brazil and China has proved to be particularly pragmatic: neither Jair Bolsonaro has revised his ties with the Asian country as he promised before becoming president (in his first year in office he has not only kept Brazil in the BRICS but even made a highly publicised official trip to Beijing), nor has Xi Jinping punished partner for accusing him of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic, as has happened with other countries. The convenience of mutual trade relations, revalued by the trade war between China and the US and the current global crisis, has prevailed.
Jair Bolsonaro and Xi Jinping in Beijing in October 2019 [Planalto Palace].
article / Túlio Dias de Assis
visit After years of criticising the "perverse communist government in Beijing", Jair Bolsonaro surprised people at the end of October with a state visit to the Forbidden City, which he himself specially publicised on social networks. On that trip he gave Xi Jinping the shirt of the Club de Regatas do Flamengo (the football team that at the time represented Brazil in the Copa Libertadores, which he would end up winning) and expressed his total conviction that he was in a capitalist country. In November he hosted a BRICS summit in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro's policy towards China had already begun to change shortly after he became president in January 2019, in contrast to his anti-China messages during the election campaign.
In fact, diplomatic relations between the two countries date back to the time of the board Military sample of which Bolsonaro is so proud. In 1974 Brazil recognised the People's Republic of China as the only China, thus allowing, despite being unaware of it at the time, the creation of a huge trade link between the two nations of continental proportions. Since then, as China's openness to China progressed, relations between China and Brazil have increased, so that for almost a decade now China has been Brazil's main trading partner, partner . China's dependence on Brazil is also notable in relation to certain products, such as soya, although for the Chinese, Brazil is the twentieth largest trader partner , since logically they are economies of very different sizes.
When in 1978 Deng Xiaoping decided to open China's Economics to the rest of the world, China's GDP was close to $150 billion, 75% of Brazil's, which was already over $200 billion. Four decades later, in 2018, Brazil's GDP was $1.8 trillion and China's was $13.6 trillion.
Soybeans and pigs
Brazil's greatest commercial and even political rapprochement with China occurred during the presidency of Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva, during which the BRICS was formed, a club that helped create a greater level of economic and diplomatic proximity between member countries. This rapprochement led China to become Brazil's leading trade partner in exports and imports. Brazil's sales to China almost double exports to the US.
Although trade with Brazil represents less than 4% of the total value of goods that China imports annually, the South American country continues to be an important commercial partner for the People's Republic, due to the fact that the main product imported from Brazil is soya, one of the instructions of the per diem expenses habitual of a large part of the Chinese population. More than half of the soya imported by China comes from Brazil and the tendency is for this to increase, mainly due to the trade war with the US - the second main exporter of soya to China -, making Brazil practically the breadbasket of the Middle Kingdom. China is the destination for more than 70% of Brazilian soybean production.
Dependence on China, from the Brazilian consumer's perspective, was accentuated at the end of 2019 due to an exorbitant rise in meat prices. The average between the different Brazilian states hovered between 30% and 40% compared to previous months. Producers were able to substantially increase their profits in the short term deadline, but the popular classes openly protested against the uncontrolled price of a product that is very present on the average Brazilian's regular per diem expenses . The rise in prices was due to a combination of factors, including an outbreak of swine fever that devastated much of China's production. Faced with a shortage of supply in its domestic market, China was forced to diversify its suppliers, and in the midst of a trade war with the US, China had no choice but to turn to Brazil's agricultural potential, one of the few countries capable of meeting China's huge demand for meat. During this period - a brief one, as it gradually returned to the previous status - Brazil managed to obtain a certain coercive power over the Asian giant.
Huawei and credits
Brazil is extremely dependent on China at status subject technology: more than 40 per cent of Brazil's purchases from China are machinery, electronic devices or parts thereof. In the last decade, with the arrival of the smartphone and fibre-optic revolution in Latin America, Brazil decided to make a greater commitment to Chinese technology, thus becoming one of the main international markets for the now controversial Huawei brand, which has come to dominate 35% of the Brazilian mobile phone market. While the US and Europe were wary of Huawei and from the outset placed limits on its markets, Brazil saw Chinese technology as a cheaper way to develop and never let itself be swayed by suspicions of Chinese government interference in subject of privacy. Several deputies of the PSL (Bolsonaro's former party) even visited China in early 2020 to evaluate the possibility of acquiring Chinese facial recognition equipment to help state security forces fight organised crime, proposal which was ultimately rejected by parliament.
With the rise of the controversy over the risks of espionage that the use of the Chinese multinational's technology could pose, some voices have warned of the threat that Huawei's contracting could pose to quite a few government agencies and offices: a couple of embassies and consulates, part of the infrastructure of the Chamber of Deputies, and even the headquarters of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Justice in some federal states. Although given the lack of accusatory evidence against Huawei, little has been done by the government about it; only the cancellation of some purchases of Huawei devices.
Brazil is the country that has received the second largest amount of public loans from China in Latin America: 28.9 billion dollars (Venezuela is the first with 62.2 billion dollars), distributed in eleven loans between 2007 and 2017, nine of which come from the Bank of China development and another two from the Export-Import Bank of China. Although this is a large amount, it represents a very small percentage of Brazil's public debt, which now exceeds one trillion dollars. Most of the loans granted by Beijing have been earmarked for the construction of infrastructure for resource extraction. In addition, Chinese companies have invested in the construction of two ports in Brazil, one in São Luís (Maranhão State) and the other in Paranaguá (Paraná State).
The rhetoric of the coronavirus
Bolsonaro soon realised his dependence on China and opted for a policy of accommodation towards Beijing, far from his campaign messages. Once again, Brazil opted for pragmatism and moderation, as opposed to ideology and radicalism, in terms of Itamaraty (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) policy. Likewise, in the face of the instability caused by the US-China trade war and Trump's current weak position, Bolsonaro demonstrated pragmatism by not closing himself off to high-potential trade partners because of his ideology, as was seen last November at the BRICS summit in Brasilia.
But at times, rhetoric emerges that is in keeping with the original thinking. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Bolsonaro has in some messages copied Trump's anti-China narrative. A good example is the exchange tweet exchange between Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal deputy and the president's eldest son, and the Chinese ambassador, Yang Wanming. The former compared the coronavirus to the Chernobyl accident, insinuating total irresponsibility, negligence and concealed information on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. The ambassador responded that the president's son "on his last trip to the US did not contract the coronavirus, but a mental virus", referring to his ideological proximity to Trump.
However, all this status seems to have calmed down after a phone call between the presidents of both countries, in which both reaffirmed their commitments, especially those of a commercial and financial nature. Moreover, once again Bolsonaro seems to be following the Itamaraty's traditional line of neutrality, despite the constant insistence of his instructions in blaming China for the current tragedy. It is clear that economic dependence on China remains much stronger than the ideological principles of Bolsonaro's political base, however Trumpist it may be.
▲ VCR 8x8 programme [framework Romero/MDE].
COMMENTARY / Salvador Sánchez Tapia
After a gap of eight years since the publication of the last one in 2012, on 11 June, the President of the Government signed a new National Defence Directive (DDN), marking the beginning of a new Defence Planning cycle which, according to agreement as established by Defence Order 60/2015, must be valid for six years.
The essay of the DDN 20 is a laudable effort to bring National Defence up to date with the challenges of a complex strategic environment in continuous transformation. Its essay also offers an excellent opportunity to build along the way an intellectual community on this important issue, which will be fundamental throughout the cycle.
This article provides a preliminary analysis of the DDN 20, focusing on its most relevant aspects. In a first approximation, the official document follows the line, already enshrined in other Directives, of subsuming the essentially military concept of Defence within the broader concept of Security, which affects all the capabilities of the State. In this sense, the first difficulty that the DDN 20 has had to overcome is precisely the lack of a statutory document similar to the DDN, drafted at the level of National Security, to illuminate and guide it. To tell the truth, the void has not been total, since, as the DDN 20 states in its introduction, there is a National Security Strategy (NSS) which, although published in 2017, has served as reference letter in its elaboration, despite the evident lack of consistency between the strategic scenarios described in both documents.
In this respect, it is precisely worth noting the lack of specificity with which the new DDN defines the strategic scenario, compared to the somewhat greater specificity of the ESN. The DDN 20 draws a vague, almost generic scenario, applicable almost unchanged to any nation in the world, without reference to specific geographical areas; an accumulation of threats and risks to security with an impact on Defence, none of which appears to be more likely or more dangerous, and to which is added the recognition of changes in the international order that once again bring the possibility of major armed conflicts closer.
Such an approach makes it difficult to subsequently define defence objectives and guidelines for action and, perhaps for this reason, there are certain inconsistencies between the three parts of the document. It is striking that, although the document raises certificate, somewhat hastily, the possibility of the emergence of COVID-19, the possibility of a pandemic not being triggered is not considered in the description of the strategic scenario, something that, on the other hand, is included in ESN 17.
Along with the description of this scenario, the DDN 20 is interspersed with a series of considerations of a programmatic nature, which are in themselves positive and relevant, but which have little to do with what is to be expected in a document of this nature, designed to guide National Defence planning. In some cases, such as the promotion of the gender perspective, or the improvement of the quality of life of staff in its dimensions of improving living facilities, reconciling professional and family life, and reintegration into civilian life once the link with the Armed Forces has ended, the considerations are more typical of the Policy of staff of the department than of a DDN. In others, such as the obligation to respect local cultures in military operations, they seem more subject typical of the Royal Ordinances or another subject code of ethics.
Undoubtedly motivated by the COVID-19 emergency, and in view of the role that the Armed Forces have assumed during it, the DDN emphasises the importance of partnership missions with and in support of civilian authorities, something that is inherent to the Armed Forces, and establishes the specific goal of acquiring capabilities that allow for the partnership and support of these authorities in crisis and emergency situations.
The management of the pandemic may have highlighted gaps in response capabilities, shortcomings in coordination instruments, etc., thereby opening a window of opportunity to make progress in this area and produce a more effective response in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to guard against the possibility, opened up by this DDN, of losing sight of the central tasks of the armed forces, to prevent an excessive focus on missions in support of the civilian population from ending up distorting their organisation, manning and training, thereby impairing the deterrence capacity of the armies and their combat operability.
The DDN also contains the customary reference letter, which is necessary to promote a true Defence Culture among Spaniards. The accredited specialization is justified by the role that the Ministry of Defence should play in this effort. However, it is not the defence sector that needs to be reminded of the importance of this issue. The impact of any effort to promote Defence Culture will be limited if it is not assumed as its own by other ministries Departments , as well as by all State administrations, being aware that it is not possible to generate a Defence Culture without a prior consensus at the national level on such essential issues as the objectives or values shared by all. It is perhaps on this aspect that the emphasis should be placed.
Perhaps the most controversial point of the DDN 20 is that of financing. Achieving the objectives set out in the document requires sustained financial investment over time to break the current ceiling of expense in defence. Maintaining the Armed Forces among the technological elite, substantially improving the quality of life of the professional staff -which begins with providing them with the equipment that best guarantees their survival and superiority on the battlefield-, reinforcing the capacity to support civilian authorities in emergency situations, strengthening intelligence and action capabilities in cyberspace, or meeting with guarantees the operational obligations derived from our active participation in international organisations, for which, moreover, a commitment has been made to strengthen them by up to 50% for a period of one year, is as necessary as it is costly.
The DDN 20 recognises this in its final paragraph when it states that the development of the document's guidelines will require the necessary funding. This statement, however, is little more than an acknowledgement of the obvious, and is not accompanied by any commitment or guarantee of funding. Bearing in mind the important commitments already signed by the Ministry with the pending Special Armaments Programmes, and in view of the economic-financial panorama that is on the horizon due to the effects of COVID-19, which has led the JEME to announce the arrival of a period of austerity for the Army, and which deserves to be listed among the main threats to national security, it seems difficult that the objectives of the DDN 20 can be covered in the terms it sets out. This is the real Achilles' heel of the document, which could make it little more than a dead letter.
In conclusion, the issuance of a new DDN is to be welcomed as an effort to update National Defence policy, even in the absence of a similar instrument that periodically articulates the level of Security Policy in which Defence Policy should be subsumed.
The emergence of COVID-19 seems to have overtaken the document, causing it to lose some of its validity and calling into question not only the will, but also the real capacity to achieve the ambitious goals it proposes. At least it is possible that the document may act, even in a limited way, as a kind of shield to protect the Defence sector against the scenario of scarce resources that Spain will undoubtedly experience in the coming years.
[John West, Asian Century on A Knife Edge: A 360 Degree Analysis of Asia's Recent Economic Development. Palgrave Macmillan. Singapore, 2018. 329 p.]
REVIEW / Gabriela Pajuelo
The degree scroll of this book seems to contribute to the generalised chorus that the 21st century is Asia's century. In reality, the book's thesis is the opposite, or at least puts this claim "on a knife's edge": Asia is a continent of great economic complexity and competing geopolitical interests, posing a series of challenges whose resolution will determine the region's place in the world in the coming decades. For now, argues John West, a university professor in Tokyo, nothing is certain.
The book begins with a preamble on the recent history of Asia, from the Second World War to the present day. Already at the beginning of this period, economic liberalism was established as the standard doctrine in much of the world, including most Asian countries, in a process driven by the establishment of international institutions.
China joined this system, without renouncing its domestic doctrines, when it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001. Since then, there have been some shocks such as the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which severely affected the US economy and had repercussions in the rest of the world, or the recent tariff tensions between Washington and Beijing, as well as the current global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The principles of protectionism and nationalism deployed by Donald Trump and an increased US resource to the hard power in the region, as well as a more assertive policy by Xi Jinping's China in its geographical surroundings, also resorting to positions of force, such as in the South China Sea, have damaged the multilateralism that had been built up in that part of the world.
The author provides some thought-provoking insights into the challenges that Asia will face, given that the factors core topic that favoured its development have now deteriorated (mainly due to the stability provided by international economic interdependence).
West examines seven challenges. The first is to gain a better position in global value chains, as since the 1980s the manufacture of components and the production of final products has taken place in different parts of the world. Asia is heavily involved in these supply chains, in fields such as technology or apparel production, but is subject to business decisions by multinationals whose practices are sometimes not socially responsible and allow abuse of labour rights, which are important for the middle classes development .
The second challenge is to maximise the potential of urbanisation, which has grown from 27% of the population in 1980 to 48% in 2015. The region is known for its densely populated mega-cities. This brings with it some challenges: people migrating to industrial centres generally move from leave productivity jobs to high productivity jobs, and health care capacity is put at test . But it is also an opportunity to improve environmental practices or encourage innovation through green technologies, even though much of Asia today still faces high levels of pollution.
Another challenge is to give all Asians equal opportunities in their respective societies, from LGBT people to women and indigenous communities, as well as ethnic and religious minorities. The region also faces a major demographic challenge , as many populations either age (such as China's, despite the correction of the "two-child policy") or continue to expand with presumed future supply problems (such as India's).
West also points to reference letter, the barriers to democratisation in the region, with China's notable immobility, and the spread of economic crime and corruption (counterfeiting, piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, cybercrime and money laundering).
Finally, the author speaks of challenge that Asian countries can live together in peace and harmony, while China consolidates its position as a regional leader: if there is a Chinese commitment to thesoft powerThrough the Belt and Road initiative, there is also a more confrontational attitude on the part of Beijing towards Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea, while actors such as India, Japan and North Korea want a greater role.
Overall, the book provides a comprehensive analysis of Asia's economic and social development and the challenges ahead. In addition, the author offers some thought-provoking insights, arguing that the proclaimed "Asian century" is unlikely due to the region's lagging economic development , as most countries have not caught up with their Western counterparts in terms of GDP per capita and technological sophistication. However, it leaves the future open: if the challenges are successfully met, the time may indeed come for an Asian century.
▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO].
ESSAY / Alejandro J. Alfonso
In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, in an effort to raise awareness and induce action to combat the effects of climate change and global warming. COP25 is another conference in a long line of efforts to combat climate change, including the Kyoto Protocol of 2005 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. However, what the International Community has failed to do in these conferences and agreements is address the issue of those displaced by the adverse effects of Climate Change, what some call "Climate Refugees".
In 1951, six years after the conclusion of the Second World War and three years after the creation of the State of Israel, a young organisation called the United Nations held an international convention on the status of refugees. According to Article 1 section A of this convention, the status of refugee would be given to those already recognized as refugees by earlier conventions, dating back to the League of Nations, and those who were affected "as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion...". However, as this is such a narrow definition of a refugee, the UN reconvened in 1967 to remove the geographical and time restrictions found in the 1951 convention, thus creating the 1967 Protocol.
Since then, the United Nations General Assembly and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have worked together to promote the rights of refugees and to continue the fight against the root causes of refugee movements.  In 2016, the General Assembly made the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, followed by the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, in which four objectives were established: "(i) ease pressures on host countries; (ii) enhance refugee self-reliance; (iii) expand access to third country solutions; and (iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity".  Defined as 'interlinked and interdependent objectives', the Global Compact aims to unite the political will of the International Community and other major stakeholders in order to have 'equitalized, sustained and predictable contributions' towards refugee relief efforts. Taking a holistic approach, the Compact recognizes that various factors may affect refugee movements, and that several interlinked solutions are needed to combat these root causes.
While the UN and its supporting bodies have made an effort to expand international protection of refugees, the definition on the status of refugees remains largely untouched since its initial applications in 1951 and 1967. "While not in themselves causes of refugee movements, climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements".3 The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that the increase of the average temperature of the planet, commonly known as Global Warming, can lead to an increase in the intensity and occurrence of natural disasters. Furthermore, this is reinforced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which has found that the number of those displaced by natural disasters is higher than the number of those displaced by violence or conflict on a yearly basis, as shown in Table 1. In an era in which there is great preoccupation and worry concerning the adverse effects of climate change and global warming, the UN has not expanded its definition of refugee to encapsulate those who are displaced due to natural disasters caused by, allegedly, climate change.
Table 1 / Global Internal Displacement Database, from IDMC
This present paper will be focused on the study of Central America and Southeast Asia as my study subjects. The first reason for which these two regions have been selected is that both are the first and second most disaster prone areas in the world, respectively. Secondly, the countries found within these areas can be considered as developing states, with infrastructural, economic, and political issues that can be aggravating factors. Finally, both have been selected due to the hegemonic powers within those hemispheres: the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. Both of these powers have an interest in how a 'refugee' is defined due to concerns over these two regions, and worries over becoming receiving countries to refugee flows.
As aforementioned, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to increase due to irregularities brought upon by an increase in the average temperature of the ocean. Figure 1 shows that climate driven disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean have slowly been increasing since the 1970s, along with the world average, and are expected to increase further in the years to come. In a study by Omar D. Bello, the rate of climate related disasters in Central America increased by 326% from the year 1970 to 1999, while from 2000 to 2009 the total number of climate disasters were 143 and 148 in Central America and the Caribbean respectively. On the other hand, while research conducted by Holland and Bruyère has not concluded an increase in the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of Category 4-5 hurricanes in the area.
This increase in natural disasters, and their intensity, can have a hard effect on those countries which have a reliance on agriculture. Agriculture as a percentage of GDP has been declining within the region in recent years due to policies of diversification of economies. However, in the countries of Honduras and Nicaragua the percentage share of agriculture is still slightly higher than 10%, while in Guatemala and Belize agriculture is slightly below 10% of GDP share. Therefore, we can expect high levels of emigration from the agricultural sectors of these countries, heading toward higher elevations, such as the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Furthermore, we can expect mass migration movements from Belize, which is projected to be partially submerged by 2100 due to rising sea levels.
Figure 2 / Climate Risk Index 2020, from German Watch
The second region of concern is Southeast Asia, the region most affected by natural disasters, according to the research by Bello, mentioned previously. The countries of Southeast Asia are ranked in the top ten countries projected to be at most risk due to climate change, shown in Figure 2 above. Southeast Asia is home to over 650 million people, about 8% of total world population, with 50% living in urban areas. Recently, the OECD concluded that while the share in GDP of agriculture and fisheries has declined in recent years, there is still a heavy reliance on these sectors to push economy in the future. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank carried out a study analysing the possible cost of climate change on several countries in the region. It concluded that a possible loss of 1.8% in the GDP of six countries could occur by 2050. These six countries had a high reliance on agriculture as part of the GDP, for example Bangladesh with around 20% of GDP and 48% of the workforce being dedicated to agricultural goods. Therefore, those countries with a high reliance on agricultural goods or fisheries as a proportion of GDP can be expected to be the sources of large climate migration in the future, more so than in the countries of Central America.
One possible factor is the vast river system within the area, which is susceptible to yearly flooding. With an increase in average water levels, we can expect this flooding to worsen gradually throughout the years. In the case of Bangladesh, 28% of the population lives on a coastline which sits below sea level. With trends of submerged areas, Bangladesh is expected to lose 11% of its territory due to rising sea levels by 2050, affecting approximately 15 million inhabitants. Scientists have reason to believe that warmer ocean temperatures will not only lead to rising sea levels, but also an intensification and increase of frequency in typhoons and monsoons, such as is the case with hurricanes in the North Atlantic.
Taking into account the analysis provided above, there are two possible migration movements: internal or external. In respect to internal migration, climate migrants will begin to move towards higher elevations and temperate climates to avoid the extreme weather that forced their exodus. The World Bank report, cited above, marked two locations within Central America that fulfil these criteria: the Central Plateau of Mexico, and the highlands of Guatemala. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, climate migrants will move inwards in an attempt to flee the rising waters, floods, and storms.
However, it is within reason to believe that there will be significant climate migration flows towards the USA and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Both the United States and China are global powers, and as such have a political stability and economic prowess that already attracts normal migration flows. For those fleeing the effects of climate change, this stability will become even more so attractive as a future home. For those in Southeast Asia, China becomes a very desired destination. With the second largest land area of any country, and with a large central zone far from coastal waters, China provides a territorial sound destination. As the hegemon in Asia, China could easily acclimate these climate migrants, sending them to regions that could use a larger agricultural workforce, if such a place exists within China.
In the case of Central America, the United States is already a sought-after destination for migrant movements, being the first migrant destination for all Central American countries except Nicaragua, whose citizens migrate in greater numbers to Costa Rica. With the world's largest economy, and with the oldest democracy in the Western hemisphere, the United States is a stable destination for any refugee. In regard to relocation plans for areas affected by natural disasters, the United States also has shown it is capable of effectively moving at-risk populations, such as the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement program in the state of Louisiana.
While some would opine that 'climate migrants' and 'climate refugees' are interchangeable terms, they are unfortunately not. Under international law, there does not exist 'climate refugees'. The problem with 'climate refugees' is that there is currently no political will to change the definition of refugee to include this new category among them. In the case of the United States, section 101(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the definition of a refugee follows that of the aforementioned 1951 Geneva convention, once again leaving out the supposed 'climate refugees'. The Trump administration has an interest in maintaining this status quo, especially in regard to its hard stance in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. If a resolution should pass the United Nations Security Council, the Trump administration would have no choice but to change section 101(42) of the INA, thus risking an increased number of asylum applicants to the US. Therefore, it can confidently be projected that the current administration, and possibly future administrations, would utilize the veto power, given to permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on such a resolution.
China, the strongest regional actor in Asia, does not have to worry about displeasing the voter. Rather, they would not allow a redefinition of refugee to pass the UN Security Council for reasons concerning the stability and homogeneity of the country. While China does accept refugees, according to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is fairly low, especially those from the Middle East. This is mostly likely due to the animosity that the Chinese government has for the Muslim population. In fact, the Chinese government has a tense relationship with organised religion in and of itself, but mostly with Islam and Buddhism. Therefore, it is very easy to believe that China would veto a redefinition of refugee to include 'climate refugees', in that that would open its borders to a larger number of asylum seekers from its neighbouring countries. This is especially unlikely when said neighbours have a high concentration of Muslims and Buddhists: Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, and Burma (Myanmar) is 87% Buddhist. Furthermore, both countries have known religious extremist groups that cause instability in civil society, a problem the Chinese government neither needs nor wants.
On the other hand, there is also the theory that the causes of climate migration simply cannot be measured. Natural disasters have always been a part of human history and have been a cause of migration since time immemorial. Therefore, how can we know if migrations are taking place due to climate factors, or due to other aggravating factors, such as political or economic instability? According to a report by the French think tank 'Population and Societies', when a natural disaster occurs, the consequences remain localised, and the people will migrate only temporarily, if they leave the affected zone at all. This is due to the fact that usually that society will bind together, working with familial relations to surpass the event. The report also brings to light an important issue touched upon in the studies mentioned above: there are other factors that play in a migration due to a natural disaster. Véron and Golaz in their report cite that the migration caused by the Ethiopian drought of 1984 was also due in part to bad policies by the Ethiopian government, such as tax measures or non-farming policies.
The lack of diversification of the economies of these countries, and the reliance on agriculture could be such an aggravating factor. Agriculture is very susceptible to changes in climate patterns and are affected when these climate patterns become irregular. This can relate to a change of expected rainfall, whether it be delayed, not the quantity needed, or no rainfall at all. Concerning the rising sea levels and an increase in floods, the soil of agricultural areas can be contaminated with excess salt levels, which would remain even after the flooding recedes. For example, the Sula Valley in Honduras generates 62% of GDP, and about 68% of the exports, but with its rivers and proximity to the ocean, also suffers from occasional flooding. Likewise, Bangladesh's heavy reliance on agriculture, being below sea level, could see salt contamination in its soil in the near future, damaging agricultural property.
Reliance on agriculture alone does not answer why natural disasters could cause large emigration in the region. Bello and Professor Patricia Weiss Fagen find that issues concerning the funding of local relief projects, corruption in local institutions, and general mismanagement of crisis response is another aggravating factor. Usually, forced migration flows finish with a return to the country or area of origin, once the crisis has been resolved. However, when the crisis has continuing effects, such as what happened in Chernobyl, for example, or when the crisis has not been correctly dealt with, this return flow does not occur. For example, in the countries composing the Northern Triangle, there are problems of organised crime which is already a factor for migration flows from the area. Likewise, the failure of Bangladesh and Myanmar to deal with extremist Buddhist movements, or the specific case of the Rohinga Muslims, could inhibit return flows and even encourage leaving the region entirely.
Recommendations and Conclusions
The definition of refugee will not be changed or modified in order to protect climate migrants. That is a political decision by countries who sit at a privileged position of not having to worry about such a crisis occurring in their own countries, nor want to be burdened by those countries who will be affected. Facing this simple reality should help to find a better alternative solution, which is the continuing efforts of the development of nations, in order that they may be self-sufficient, for their sake and the population's sake. This fight does not have to be taken alone, but can be fought together through regional organisations who have a better understanding and grasp of the gravity of the situation, and can create holistic approaches to resolve and prevent these crises.
We should not expect the United Nations to resolve the problem of displacement due to natural disasters. The United Nations focuses on generalized and universal issues, such as that of global warming and climate change, but in my opinion is weak in resolving localized problems. Regional organizations are the correct forum to resolve this grave problem. For Central America, the Organization of American States (OAS) provides a stable forum where these countries may express their concerns with states of North and Latin America. With the re-election of Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong and outspoken authority on issues concerning the protection of Human Rights, the OAS is the perfect forum to protect those displaced by natural disasters in the region. Furthermore, the OAS could work closely with the Inter-American Development Bank, which has the financial support of international actors who are not part of the OAS, such as Japan, Israel, Spain, and China, to establish the necessary political and structural reforms to better implement crisis management responses. This does not exclude the collusion with other international organizations, such as the UN. Interestingly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has a project in the aforementioned Sula Valley to improve infrastructure to deal with the yearly floods.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is another example of an apt regional organisation to deal with the localized issues. Mostly dealing with economic issues, this forum of ten countries could carry out mutual programs in order to protect agricultural territory, or further integrate to allow a diversification of their economies to ease this reliance on agricultural goods. ASEAN could also call forth the ASEAN +3 mechanism, which incorporates China, Japan, and South Korea, to help with the management of these projects, or for financial aid. China should be interested in the latter option, seeing as it can increase its good image in the region, as well as protecting its interest of preventing possible migration flows to its territory. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, offers a good alternative financial source if the ASEAN countries so choose, in order to not have heavy reliance on one country or the other.
▲ Rice field terraces in Vietnam [Pixabay].
COMMENT / Eduardo Arbizu
The combination of a market Economics and an authoritarian regime dominated by the Communist Party of Vietnam (VCP) has led Vietnam, a country of over 90 million people, to become a key player in the future of Southeast Asia.
Today's Vietnam is the consequence of a confusing and contradictory process of change that has transformed not only the country's Economics but has also had a profound impact on social life, urban configuration, environment, domestic and foreign policies and whose final effects will be seen in the long term deadline.
An impressive economic turnaround
The transformation of the economic model in Vietnam derives formally from the decision taken at the VCP's sixth congress in December 1986 to open the country to the market Economics , but its roots lie earlier, in the economic crisis that followed the war, in the collapse of agricultural production that the radical implementation of a communist model brought about in 1979. This debacle forced the private trading of any surplus production that exceeded the targets set by the state for public land or enterprises. This kind of state capitalism paved the way for the liberalisation that followed the death of Stalinist leader Le Duan in 1986. The approval of the do-moi or renovation policy meant the withdrawal of planning and the choice for the free market. It was not an ideological decision but an instrumental one. work If the CP wanted to maintain control of the country it needed to generate one million jobs a year, guarantee food for 90 million people and reduce poverty.
It has been an economic and social success: per capita income has increased dramatically and the population below the poverty line has been reduced from 60% to 20%. The US embargo ended in 1993 and in 1997 the two countries signed a new agreement trade agreement. In 2007 Vietnam was admitted to the WTO. In this context of openness, more than 150,000 new businesses were set up under the new enterprise law and major international companies such as Clarks, Canon, Samsung and Intel set up production facilities in Vietnam.
The achievements of the process, however, should not hide its weaknesses: a state-controlled Economics through joint ventures and state-owned enterprises, a fragile rule of law, massive corruption, a web of families loyal to the VCP accumulating wealth and owning most private businesses, growing inequality and deep ecological degradation.
Agriculture has evolved from the sudden drop in production that followed communist collectivisation to the current status where Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world, a crop that accounts for 20% of its exports. The industrialisation of Economics has meant that agriculture, which used to account for 40% of GDP, is now only 20%. Livelihoods still depend on rice cultivation, still the main source of income for rural households, where half of the population lives. source . Rice exports are managed by a combination of free market and corrupt officialdom, with the negative consequences experienced in the speculative crisis of 2008. There has been an intense migration from the countryside to the big cities where wages are five times higher. The pressure for wealth is converting agricultural land into residential or industrial plots. Every year 10,000 new hectares are re-zoned. The transformation of the rural world is pushing away the old Structures that provided security, meaning and purpose and it remains to be seen how it affects future stability.
Social and environmental change
The construction of proletarian towns after the war, under the communist housing programme, has not prevented overcrowding and the continuation of communal life. Migrants continue to arrive in search of work, money and protection. Tons of industrial waste remains untreated; the rivers around Ho Chi Min City are biologically dead and pollution in Hanoi is well above internationally accepted levels. Problems such as prostitution, with more than 1% of women working in the illicit sex trade, or abandoned children on the streets are a reality. However, while doubling or tripling its urban population, Vietnam has managed these problems better than neighbouring countries, largely avoiding the ghost cities and their problems of crime, extreme poverty and drug addiction so common in the rest of Asia.
Commercial and urban dynamism is reflected in thousands of illegal street food shops and small businesses, pioneers of small-scale capitalism, which are now a tourist symbol of Vietnam. In cities full of young people who identify freedom with a polluting motorbike, youth rebels against years of communist austerity but not against family traditions.
Vietnam is a country where a natural wonder like Ha Long Bay, one of the country's iconic images, is simultaneously a tourist attraction and an environmental disaster. It is also one of the areas most exposed to the effects of climate change, due to its low altitude and reliance on agricultural production in the Mekong Delta and tourism. Respect for wildlife and the environment are issues of high priority for the authorities leave .
The VCP remains in control
There are issues that have not changed with the same intensity. Vietnam still lives under a "natural system of control", the deep surveillance system put in place by the communist regime to control the values and behaviour of its people. A system in which one in six Vietnamese ended up working in the security forces and which resulted in the control of "cultivated families", those who behave in accordance with the values set by the party. agreement . Although it has proven its effectiveness in crises such as avian flu and now partly in the Covid-19 crisis, the system is now controversial due to the spread of the internet and social networks and radical social changes that call for more freedom. Despite this control, corruption is widespread and damaging to the country's future.
The VCP is still in power. Retaining its Leninist roots, it is now an elitist and intelligent organisation in search of its own survival. A new mandarinate that has evolved from a centralised power present in all aspects of public and social life to a fragile and partial control; from a "petty legal system", where decisions were taken directly by the VCP and their compliance with the law was irrelevant, to a "State based on Law", where rules are the tool to supervise entrepreneurs and investors, allowing them to create wealth and employment but simultaneously comply with the VCP's expectations. Similarly, the party controls the legislature, the courts and indirectly the press, media and news coverage, which prevents Vietnam from being considered a truly free country.
Life has been difficult and lonely for those few who tried to oppose the regime and promote real democracy. The name of the Catholic priest Father Ly and his followers, brutally repressed, tried and convicted in March 2007, once the country was admitted to the WTO, casts a shadow over the hope for a transition to effective political freedom.
Foreign policy and the future
Vietnam's foreign policy seeks to strike a balance in its relations with two main actors: the US and China, counterbalanced by a set of alliances with third countries. Overcoming war wounds and establishing trusting cooperation on subject security is the goal of the policy of rapprochement with the US, which is already a significant investor in the country. The special relationship with China, the largest importer of Vietnamese goods, an industrial giant and Asia's largest military, is the other axis of its policy despite long-standing territorial disputes.
The overexploited environment, inequality, elite entrenchment and, above all, uncertainty about the evolution of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the political system are aspects that are weighing on the outlook. However, a young and well-educated population, as well as the inflow of foreign investment, are reasons for optimism about further liberalisation of the country, including political liberalisation.
▲ Crossroads in Minneapolis where George Floyd was stopped by local police [Fibonacci Blue].
COMMENTARY / Salvador Sánchez Tapia [Brigadier General (Res.)].
In a controversial public statement on 2 June, US President Donald Trump threatened to deploy armed forces units to contain riots sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota, and to maintain law and order if they escalate in violence.
Regardless of the seriousness of the event, and beyond the fact that the incident has been politicised and is being employee used as a platform for expressing rejection of Trump's presidency, the possibility raised by the president poses an almost unprecedented challenge to civil-military relations in the United States.
For reasons rooted in its pre-independence past, the United States maintains a certain caution against the possibility that armed forces can be used domestically against citizens by whoever holds power. For this reason, when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, while authorising the congress to organise and maintain armies, they explicitly limited their funding to a maximum of two years.
Against this backdrop, and against the background of the tension between the Federation and the states, American legislation has tried to limit the employment of the Armed Forces in domestic tasks. Thus, since 1878, the Posse Comitatus Since 1878, for example, the Armed Forces Act has limited the possibility of using them to carry out law and order missions that the states, including the National Guard, are responsible for carrying out with their own resources.
One of the exceptions to this rule is the Insurrection Act of 1807, invoked precisely by President Trump as an argument in favour of the legality of a possible decision by employment. This is despite the fact that this law is restrictive in spirit, as it requires the cooperation of the states in its application, and because it is designed for extreme cases in which the states are unable, or unwilling, to maintain order, circumstances that do not seem applicable to the case at hand.
The controversial nature of advertisement is attested to by the fact that voices as authoritative and so little inclined to publicly break its neutrality as that of Lieutenant General (ret.) James Mattis, Secretary of Defence of the Trump Administration until his premature removal in December 2018, or Lieutenant General (ret.) Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 2011 and 2015, have spoken out against it. ) Martin Dempsey, head of the board Chiefs of Staff between 2011 and 2015, have spoken out against this employment, joining the statements made by former presidents as disparate as George W. Bush and Barack Obama, or those of the Secretary of Defence himself, Mark Esper, whose position against the possibility of using the Armed Forces in this status has recently been made clear.
The presidential advertisement has opened up a crisis in the usually stable US civil-military relations (CMR). Beyond the scope of the United States, the profound question, which affects the very core of CMR in a democratic state, is none other than whether or not it is appropriate to use the armed forces in public order or, in a broader sense, domestic tasks, and the risks associated with such a decision.
In the 1990s, Michael C. Desch, one of the leading authorities in the field of CMR, identified the correlation between the missions entrusted to the armed forces by a state and the quality of its civil-military relations, concluding that foreign-oriented military missions are the most conducive to healthy CMR, while non-military domestic missions are likely to generate various CMR pathologies.
Generally speaking, the existence of armed forces in any state is primarily motivated by the need to protect the state against any threat from outside. employment In order to carry out such a high task with guarantees, armies are equipped and trained for the lethal use of force, unlike police forces, which are equipped and trained for a minimal and gradual use of force, which only becomes lethal in the most extreme, exceptional cases. In the first case, it is a matter of confronting an armed enemy intent on destroying one's own forces. In the second, force is used to confront citizens who may, in some cases, use violence, but who remain, after all, compatriots.
When military forces are employed in tasks of this nature, there is always a risk that they will produce a response in accordance with their training, which may be excessive in a law and order scenario. The consequences, in such a case, can be very negative. In the worst case, and above all other considerations, the employment may result in a perhaps avoidable loss of life. Moreover, from the CMR's point of view, the soldiers that the nation submission has for its external defence could become, in the eyes of the public, the enemies of those they are supposed to defend.
The damage this can do to civil-military relations, to national defence and to the quality of a state's democracy is difficult to measure, but it can be intuited if one considers that, in a democratic system, the armed forces cannot live without the support of their fellow citizens, who see them as a beneficial force for the nation and to whose members they extend their recognition as its loyal and selfless servants.
The abuse of employment of the armed forces in domestic tasks can also deteriorate their already complex preparation, weakening them for the execution of the missions for which they were conceived. It may also end up conditioning their organisation and equipment to the detriment, once again, of their essential tasks.
On the other hand, and although today we are far from such a scenario, this employment could gradually lead to a progressive expansion of the tasks of the Armed Forces, which would extend their control over purely civilian activities and see their range of tasks increasingly broadened, displacing other agencies in their execution, which could, undesirably, atrophy.
In such a scenario, the military institution could cease to be perceived as a disinterested actor and come to be seen as a competitor with particular interests, and with a capacity for control that it could use to its own advantage, even if this were at odds with the nation's interest. Such a status would, over time, lead hand in hand to the politicisation of the armed forces, from which would follow another damage to WRCs that is difficult to quantify.
Decisions such as President Trump's may ultimately place members of the armed forces in the grave moral dilemma of using force against their fellow citizens, or disobeying the president's orders. Because of its seriousness, therefore, the decision to commit the armed forces to such tasks should be taken exceptionally and after careful consideration.
It is difficult to determine whether President Trump's advertisement was merely a product of his temperament or whether, on the contrary, it contained a real intention to use the armed forces in the unrest sweeping the country, in a decision that has not occurred since 1992. In any case, the President, and those advising him, must assess the damage that could be done to civil-military relations and, therefore, to the American democratic system. This is without forgetting, moreover, the responsibility that rests on America's shoulders in the face of the reality that a part of humanity looks to the country as a reference letter and model to imitate.