Geopoliticus
July 30, 2019

Tensions between South Korea and Japan Benefit No One

The current trade war between Japan and South Korea makes little logical sense in a liberal worldview of international relations. French economist Frederic Bastiat (allegedly) said that “when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” The idea is that social and economic bonds created by trade across borders should form peaceful, mutually beneficial relationships between states. When two countries are mutually dependent on each other, neither have an incentive to fight with the other.

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Geopoliticus
July 12, 2019

China’s Hong Kong Quandary

Over recent weeks, Hong Kong has been repeatedly rocked by mass demonstrations protesting the actions of its governing authorities. What makes these demonstrations noteworthy and very important are their scale and their location. Protest organizers estimated the crowds at one point at nearly two million—over a quarter of the entire population of Hong Kong. These are not the first expressions of mass dissent in Hong Kong; the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” paralyzed the city for days. But in several respects, Hong Kong still seems an unlikely venue for such events.

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Geopoliticus
July 2, 2019

Donald Trump Goes to North Korea, but Does It Matter?

What really makes something “historic?” Surely, President Donald Trump’s steps onto North Korean soil were historic firsts. Just a couple of years ago—and this cannot be stressed enough—virtually everything that went down in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30 would have seemed unimaginable. But to truly call something historic, it would have to carry significance. To that end, about Trump’s and Kim Jong-un’s impromptu summit, we just don’t know. The biggest outcome is that working groups between the two sides will get back to fleshing out the actual substance of a potential agreement. This is by far the most important aspect of the summitry between the U.S. and North Korea because like Hanoi showed, if the nitty-gritty isn’t worked out beforehand, then summits themselves matter very little.

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Geopoliticus
June 28, 2019

‘Ghost Work’ in Modi’s India: Exploitation or Job Creation?

Many of the apps we use—as smart and as fast as they appear—cannot function without people working behind the scenes to fill in the gaps. Machines are not as good as humans (yet) at figuring out whether a tweet is offensive or deciding whether an Uber driver’s authentication selfies match from one day to the next. But who are these hidden workers? Where do they live? New research from anthropologist Mary L. Gray and computer scientist Siddharth Suri unearths a key source of so-called “ghost work” outside the United States: India.

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(Source: Kenyh Cevarom/WikiMedia Commons)
Geopoliticus
June 26, 2019

Czechs Protest like it’s 1989, Demand Resignation of ‘Czech Trump’

In the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Czechs have poured into the streets to protest the corrupt rule of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the “Czech Trump.” The scenes are reminiscent of 1989. The largest demonstration took place on June 23 on Letna plain, an enormous park on a bluff overlooking Prague, where a previous generation faced down the communist dictatorship. Others took place in Wenceslas Square, where the 1989 protests also originated.

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Geopoliticus
June 19, 2019

Xi Jinping in North Korea: Significant, but No Game Changer  

Chinese President Xi Jinping is heading to Pyongyang for the first state visit by a Chinese leader to North Korea in well over ten years. It’s a high-profile event, and given how stalled the diplomatic process is between the U.S. and North Korea, there are certainly hopes on all sides that Xi’s visit will get something moving. The question is what exactly that could be. For North Korea’s part, it’s unlikely to be much in terms of what it has been most persistent in demanding: sanctions relief.

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Geopoliticus
June 14, 2019

Georgia and Azerbaijan’s David Gareja Monastery Conundrum

The breakup of the Soviet Union brought freedom, independence, and sovereignty to its member republics without clearly demarcating their borders. The non-demarcated boundaries created numerous conflicts and points of contention in countries across the South Caucasus. The origins of these border disputes trace back to Joseph Stalin’s nationalities policy of delimitation from the 1920s. The policy aimed partly to change the administrative division of the USSR and partly to adjust the boundaries of its territorial units while serving Stalin’s efforts to consolidate power. The still-frozen conflicts of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh are three examples of the legacy of Stalin’s policy.

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Geopoliticus
June 13, 2019

China Invades Taiwan—Sort Of

On a recent trip to Taiwan, I visited the island of Kinmen, one of Taiwan’s outlying islands located off the coast of China’s Fujian Province. Kinmen, more commonly known as Quemoy to a Western audience for its role in the Second Taiwan Crisis in 1958 as well as the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate. Mao Zedong even tried—and failed—to invade the island in 1949. The purpose of the trip was to reconnect with old friends and revisit some of the sites of the island: civilian and military tunnels, some of which housed naval vessels; traditional villages; and beaches. The history of the island, particularly how the people lived during the martial law period in Taiwan when the island was militarized and when the PRC and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government would shell each other, is an important case study in how a population copes and adapts.

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