Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, May 18, 2018

Coming of age in China

The dilemmas facing rural migrants in urban China

In China’s cities, young people with rural ties are angry
Over the past 40 years, hundreds of millions have [moved from village to city], providing the blood, sweat and tears of China’s economic miracle. The Communist Party has often congratulated itself that such a vast movement of people has happened without mass unrest. But those… who have left rural areas more recently challenge the party’s sense of security. They face a wider range of problems than earlier participants in the rural exodus. They are dissatisfied with their lot and have little to lose. They may prove less quiescent than their predecessors.

When observers of China think of threats to the party, they often focus on the rapid growth of the country’s new middle class… But many Chinese analysts… fret about turmoil created by members of a social underclass: poor workers in the cities whose family ties are rural…

A study published in 2009 in the Beijing-based Economic Research Journal said the younger migrants wanted “personal development”, unlike their parents who were focused on more basic needs. The new generation, it concluded rather snobbishly, “is no longer willing to stay in the dirtiest jobs, is not frugal enough to save money to send home and not able to earn enough to build a married life.” Its members are less stoical and unwilling to suffer in silence.

Young migrants share four characteristics that worry the party… they are not well educated. The men face more of a “marriage squeeze”… ie, a shortage of women of marriageable age from similar backgrounds. They similarly earn low wages and face official discrimination as a result of the hukou system that shuts many of them out of subsidised urban services such as education and health care. But they are more dissatisfied and pessimistic than their parents were. Their hopes of carving out a future in big cities are being wrecked by high living costs, demographic change and the hostility of local governments…

The younger generation are products of China’s one-child policy… The ratio of boys to girls at birth soared in the 1980s, peaking in 2005, when there were 122 baby boys for every 100 baby girls, one of the most distorted ratios ever seen…

The new generation is entering a difficult period. Its men will remain unmarried and its children will often be educated away from home. Many will be on low, insecure wages… [T]he party’s reaction to any discontent is likely to be greater repression. That would make solving migrants’ deep-seated problems harder, and an explosion of rage more likely.

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Breathe deeply.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The "belt and road" opens

China's "Belt and Road" project opens its first connection to Europe.

First China-Belgium freight train from China's Tangshan arrived in Antwerp
After travelling 16 days and covering a distance of 11,000 km, the first China-Belgium freight train from China's Tangshan port has arrived in the Belgian port of Antwerp.

The train with 41 containers which left Tangshan on April 26, was officially welcomed on Saturday in Antwerp. The direct railway link between China and Belgium is part of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative…

Luc Arnouts, Director International Networks, Antwerp Port Authority, said at the welcoming ceremony that "This direct train link puts our port on the BRI (the Belt and Road Initiative) map and will further strengthen our ties with China. We have long been working on this project, which represents an important milestone in our trade relations with China."

In his speech, Guo Jianjun, economic counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Belgium, pointed out that given the ongoing escalation of trade friction threats in major global economies, it is even more necessary for all parties to strengthen cooperation…

"The arrival of the first China-Europe freight train sent by Tangshan to Antwerp today is historic and will have a profound and positive impact on China-Belgium cooperation", Guo concluded.

The train has travelled through Kazakhstan,Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany to reach its final destination, Antwerp. It is the first ever direct train service from China to Antwerp.

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Don't Panic

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Analysis of Iran's presidential politics

Washington Post reporter Erin Cunningham offers this perspective on the race for president in Iran.

His nuclear deal and economy are crumbling, but don’t write off Iran’s president yet
The Iranian president’s signature achievement, a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, is starting to unravel, and his economy is in distress even before renewed U.S. sanctions begin to bite, with Iran’s currency swooning to record lows against the dollar.

His domestic opponents are clamoring for his resignation…

Longtime observers say it is far too early to count Rouhani out. They point to his skills as a shrewd political operator, honed over decades as a government insider, as well as his long-standing ties to Iran’s ruling clerics.

For now, Iran’s pragmatist president continues to enjoy the support of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who wields the ultimate authority in the country…

The mild-mannered Rouhani, a rotund cleric known for his constant smile, put a fresh, moderate face on Iran’s foreign policy. And while Rouhani and Khamenei have sparred openly over matters such as the economy and nuclear talks, the supreme leader is loath to return Iran to the chaos of the Ahmadinejad years…

The nuclear agreement… has helped ease Iran’s international isolation, offering major sanctions relief in return for restrictions on Tehran’s atomic energy program. Rouhani had pinned his legacy to the deal.

Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council in Washington, said that declarations of Rouhani’s demise have failed to take into account the support among Iran’s political elite for these nuclear negotiations. Senior figures in Iran’s political and security establishments in addition to Khamenei — including the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps — have stopped short of calling for Iran to immediately leave the agreement.

In the short term, Rouhani’s popularity should keep him afloat…

But his approval rating, the firm said, also has steadily declined in recent months…

Iranians are fed up with joblessness, soaring prices and a depreciating currency. Nationwide protests broke out in the winter over the ailing economy after a leaked government budget proposal showed cuts to subsidies for the poor…

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Don't Panic. 

The multiple choice section of the exam will ask questions about

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics (5%)
  • Sovereignty, Authority, and Power (20%)
  • Political Institutions (35%)
  • Citizens, Society, and the State (15%)
  • Political and Economic Change (15%)
  • Public Policy (10%)

That's all.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Now, that's embarrassing

The Chinese company that made shoes for Ivanka Trump's company exports jobs to Ethiopia.

Chinese firm featured in government-backed propaganda film accused of labour rights abuses
Huajian Group, a company that made shoes for Ivanka Trump and stands accused of serious labour violations plays an unexpected role in a blockbuster propaganda film about China’s renaissance under President Xi Jinping.
Huajian factory in Ethiopia

The state-backed documentary Amazing China portrays the Huajian Group as a beneficent force spreading Chinese influence and prosperity – in this case, by hiring thousands of Ethiopians at wages a fraction of what they would have to pay in China. But in Ethiopia, Huajian workers told Associated Press they work without safety equipment for pay so low they can barely make ends meet…

With epic cinematography, Amazing China articulates a message of how China would like to be seen as it pursues President Xi Jinping’s vision of a globally resurgent nation, against a reality that doesn’t always measure up…

The film’s director, Wei Tie, said he was not aware of the controversy surrounding Huajian… That is not surprising given the years of positive coverage Huajian has enjoyed in China’s Communist Party-controlled media…

Wei said he featured the company because it is “introducing China’s experience of prosperity to Africa”.

The film celebrates Huajian as a model of the inclusiveness at the heart of a much larger project – Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to spread Chinese infrastructure and influence across dozens of countries…

Don't Panic! Read the verbs!

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Friday, May 11, 2018

How violence affects the economy in Mexico

It's not just on the levels of regime and government that violence affects the political culture.

Mexico violence: Clowns protest over Acapulco murder rate
Clowns dressed in white marched down a central street in the Mexican resort of Acapulco on Monday demanding an end to the city's crime wave.

With their faces painted and carrying signs reading "peace", they said that they were "tired of so much violence".

They complained that they were losing business because residents no longer threw parties out of fear of becoming targets of crime…

Officials said they had recorded almost 50 more murders in the first three months of 2018 than in the same period last year.

Most of the murders are believed to be related to warfare between rival criminal gangs in the region…

In January, the US state department prohibited US government employees from travelling to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco.

It warned of armed groups "operating independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero".

"Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travellers," the advice said.

Federal police and soldiers were deployed to the resort in December 2014 but have so far failed to quell the violence.

Don't Panic Get some sleep.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Women in Nigerian politics

While woman are represented in the Nigerian bureaucracy and diplomatic corps, they are not well-represented in electoral politics.

Women politicians who will shake 2019
Since the return of democracy in 1999, women have persistently cried marginalization when it comes to clinching electoral offices but many of them have remained undeterred, endlessly making moves to win important positions. There are indications that many of them have rolled up their sleeves ahead of 2019…

[O]nly seven out of the 109 senators serving in the 8th National Assembly are women. There is no single woman in many state assemblies and this is amidst clamour by various groups on the need to widen the door for them to have their way during contests…

However, with few months to party primaries, some women have defied the odds and thrown their veil into the ring once again.

Dr Salma Anas Kolo
  • Dr Salma Anas Kolo: A former Commissioner of Health in Borno State, Dr Kolo is vying for the Borno South Senatorial District under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC)…
  • Binta Bello: In Gombe, the member representing Kaltungo/Shongom Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Hajiya Fatima Binta Bello, is said to be eying the Gombe South Senatorial seat under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)…
  • Mimi Adzape-Orubibi: She is the current Chairman of Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) and is said to be eyeing the Benue North East Senatorial District presently occupied by Senator Barnabas Gemade…
  • Senator Gbemisola Saraki: She is a former senator from Kwara Central Senatorial District, who contested for the governorship post in 2011. It was however gathered that she was told from the beginning not to waste her time because people of Ilorin Emirate will not consider a woman become governor on the grounds that they regard whoever is the state governor as religious leader. Now that Senator Gbemisola, a younger sister to Senate President Bukola, has decamped to APC, some political analysts said she might be eyeing the governorship position again.
  • Senator Rose Oko: Apart from Senator Rose Oko who represents Cross River North Senatorial District, no other woman has yet shown serious interest at either challenging her or aspiring for the remaining two districts although few other men have shown desire to replace her…
  • Pastor Margaret Inusa: She may not exactly be categorised as a prominent woman in the political circle but has earned a name among young Christians in Plateau State. With the recent pronouncement by Governor Simon Bako Lalong to re-contest his seat and many politicians expressing interest within the PDP, Pastor Margaret remains the only female aspirant to express interest in the number one seat under the Action Democratic Party (ADP)…
  • Senator Patricia Naomi Akwashiki: She is the only women that have declared interest to contest for the governorship position in Nasarawa State… She is currently contesting for the governorship ticket under the PDP and the party had already zoned the governorship position to northern part of the state where she comes from…
  • Remi Tinubu: The former first lady of the state and two-term Senator, Remi is married to the former Lagos State Governor and the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu. Based on her status, Remi is seen as an underground power broker in the state…
  • Binta Masi Garba: Binta Masi Garba, former chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa State was the first female chairperson of a political party in the country. She was elected Senator for the Adamawa North Senatorial District in 2015 under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC)…
  • Aisha Dahiru Ahmed: Popularly known as “Binani”, Aisha Ahmed defeated her male opponents in 2011 general elections to emerge as Member representing Yola North/Yola South/Girei Federal Constituency in Adamawa State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)…

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Is China Marxist?

President Xi seems to think that China needs a reminder that it's a socialist country.

Stick to Karl Marx’s true path,
China’s Communist Party is “totally correct” to stick with Karl Marx’s theory, President Xi Jinping has said in a speech ahead of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the German philosopher whom he described as the “greatest thinker of modern time”.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has stressed the party must not forget its socialist roots as it works to attain the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”…

“We must win the advantages, win the initiative, and win the future. We must continuously improve the ability to use Marxism to analyse and solve practical problems,” Xi said beneath a massive portrait of Marx on a stage bedecked with scarlet and gold curtains.

Xi also instructed all party members to adopt the reading of Marxist works and the understanding of Marxist theories as a “way of life” and a “spiritual pursuit”…

Today, China, the world’s largest self-identified socialist country, outwardly displays all the trappings of a modern capitalist society, from rampant consumption to a massive gap between the urban elite and rural poor.

The apparent contradiction between party rhetoric and appearance has prompted many analysts to suggest the party is no longer really motivated by Marxism but puts practical and economic concerns above all else.

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