China’s Trade Hegemony

Embed from Getty Images

China dominates in the world as a trading country – can that actually be something good?

China, in recent years, has emerged as an important player in the world economy. But that new reality, owing to rapid industrialization efforts, is not a welcome thought for many countries around the world. There is a looming sense of danger that is not entirely confounded that China’s rising economy may, in the end, hurt America’s economy: China’s advances with technology-building is hurting Japan, which is known to be a giant in that particular industry, and the Communist state’s odd penchant for acquisitions in the EU now sees foreign investment over there greeted with stern procedures.

China has come a long way from meager manufacturing outputs of zips and cigarette lighters, to a time when the state supplies cheaper products for good value. All this comes at the heels of China’s export percentages chalking in at a staggering 14percent, and this is the first time that a country has gone so high with export rates, since America in the late sixties, which really challenges competition so much because these cheap products also come with a good reputation in the market. The only way to combat China’s might here is to be innovative with what markets around the world can provide that is a better alternative to what China already offers – this is easier said than done.

So far, the only way to curb China’s growing hegemony over trade is to force it to innovate, with a collective mind – one that is more concerned about sharing trade dominance (China became the top trading country in the world in 2013), with other trade giants, such as European countries, as well. There is no need to build enemies: China is a mammoth developing country and it could use common goodwill over trade dominance with developed countries.

As Xi Jinping, stated at Davos earlier this year – a trade war will declare no winners whatsoever, and it’s very true: China should not be looked upon as a a browbeating state, over the matter of trade. China should really avoid going down the same old path as previous trade giants who dominated on such a massive scale, like the United States, and focus more on being the new and fairer face of globalization.

Advertisements

Why Independence In Local Cuisines Is A Good Idea

Embed from Getty Images

A country’s cuisine is an important part of its identity. But some countries don’t like to carve out their own identities and it’s a very surprising turn of events. Curry, for example, is a very popular Indian dish, and it is also a much loved part of Bengali cuisine (cuisine of Bangladesh and the West Bengal state of India). Meat curries, with a gravy base is a traditional food item in Bangladeshi cuisine, but fish curries seem to be the most popular kind of curry in India, instead of meat curries.

Pakistani cuisine, however, is very different and it is a perfect demonstration of how not every country likes to preserve a sense of independence in their local cuisine. A Pakistani breakfast is a blend of the English breakfast of scrambled eggs, a slice of bread or the Indian and Bangladeshi blend of roti and parathas, as well as a Westernized cuisine slant of minced meat, paired with a cup of tea or coffee, seasonal fruits, such as mango and apples, milk, honey, butter and jam. Similarly, a Pakistani lunch is a blend of Indian and Bengali cuisine: it comprises meat curry, with rice or roti. A Pakistani dinner comprises the Indian and Bangladeshi blend of pilaf and the Middle Eastern blend of kebabs, which are very popular particularly in Iraq, Iran and Israel.

To prepare pilaf you have to cook rice in a seasoned broth and it’s very popular in India and Bangladesh, probably because it’s a rice-based dish; rice is the staple dish in Japan, China, Bangladesh and India. There is no originality in Pakistani cuisine at all. Everything is borrowed from the West, or its neighbours even though Pakistan as a country is nothing like its neighbours or the West.

It’s almost as if tasting Pakistani cuisine means sampling Western, Middle Eastern, Bengali or Indian cuisine because the culinary tastes of Pakistan have adopted and made its own the culinary tastes of countries, whose cuisines I have always enjoyed and found very fascinating. It would be grand if, for a change, Pakistani cuisine showed a sense of independence from the local culinary tastes of India, Bangladesh, the Middle East and the West.

Australia’s Grand Ambitions

Embed from Getty Images

Cricketers aren’t really the people to turn to when desiring to learn more about a nation’s culture or history but sometimes it so happens that a cricketer forgets that and his place in life and decides to pike a very illiterate opinion about a western country, presumably for its national cricket team.

Australia has been my favourite country to support in cricket from my school days – I have always felt that the country can never be rivaled in cricket by any country in the world. It’s a perfectly placed belief because the Australian national cricket team has won more world cups than any other cricket team. 

Shane Warne, an Australian cricket player, is one of the finest cricketers in the world and he’s often recognized as one of the best bowlers in the history of cricket. He has often been the subject of crude criticism by a former captain of the Sri Lankan national cricket team, which barbarically poured into the Sri Lankan cricketer mocking Australia’s convict settlement history and talking about Sri Lanka’s culture, as a possible contrast instead.

It was a very illiterate demonstration of Australian history (by the Sri Lankan cricket player) because no matter what Australia’s history is like, it’s still a first world country unlike Sri Lanka, which is a third world country. So, to have these countries compared, where Sri Lanka is apparently made out to be a better country than Australia, despite Australia having done so much in the world to exist as a developed country, unlike Sri Lanka, which is just a developing country, was a very wrong thing to do.

Australia’s winning track record in cricket can never be matched by Sri Lanka. And I think this gives rise to bitter homegrown resentment from the Sri Lankan national cricket team sometimes. Since 1987, and throughout the nineties and this millennium, Australia has been the country to win most world cups and it looks like a practical impossibility that this is about to change anytime because Australia is naturally good in playing cricket.

The only surprising thing about Australia’s constant winning streak is that it’s a former British colony. Cricket is a British game and British colonizing history is something to be proud of. So, to have a former colony, which unlike many of the UK’s former colonies, is a developed country, as the country which dominates in cricket on a global scale is really a very interesting turn of events. It makes cricket a sport to look forward to, as a diverse range of nations, from the West Indies to India, battle it out on a global scale to constantly prove their country’s worth, in the British sport.

Food and its relationship with Hunger

Embed from Getty Images

Hunger is still a cause for concern in South Asia, despite numerous countries in the region already meeting its MDG target of halving, by 2015, the number of people, who suffer from hunger

It was the most unfortunate of circumstances when sub-Saharan Africa could not overwhelmingly meet its MDG goals by 2015. It had appeared during the time frame of the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that sub-Saharan Africa would perhaps meet its targets because a lot of the focus was on the impoverished conditions of the region. Furthermore, G8 leaders, from developed countries, such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom had also committed to increasing aid to Africa by 2010 but what followed was that sub-Saharan Africa has largely fallen behind to address the causes for concern, as outlined by the MDGs, instead.

It’s hard to draw comparisons even though both the regions are very poor, indeed, because South Asia is performing a lot better than sub-Saharan Africa, these years. In 2014, sub-Saharan Africa was found to have high hunger rates, much like South Asia; for South Asia, particularly, India has the highest percentage of the global extreme poor (32.9percent) followed by Bangladesh (5.3percent). However, according to latest figures, prevalence of undernourishment chalks at 15.7percent for South Asia and 23.2 for sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the primary causes for concern in South Asia is hunger, which can really give rise to an undernourishment problem, which is a significantly greater problem in South Asia, than elsewhere. Asian nations, such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Malaysia have already met one of the components of the first MDG target:

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

This is alongside sub-Saharan African states, like Mauritius, Nigeria and Ethiopia, but not Rwanda and Sierra Leone – the two states are expected to reach the target (before 2020) but what is so disconcerting is that the hunger problem still prevails in South Asia. In 2014-2016, hunger percentages from the level in 1990-1992 were slashed by a staggering 69percent for Nepal, a 52percent for Bangladesh and a 37percent for India. In comparison, many states performed very poorly with reduction of hunger, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, food insecurity in South Asia is still a major problem and this is simultaneously also reaping my concerns over consumer affordability because affordability for food is directly proportional to food security. But global prices for foods, such as wheat, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar also recently saw an increase – a rise in prices can mean good profits-wise for agriculture and farming because harvest is managing to rake in such great prices for farmers, which can help them to increase their income bracket and provide the means to afford food more.

Why Theology Fascinates Me

Embed from Getty Images

I have never been a religious person. I don’t go to church every Sunday and I don’t fast when it’s Ramadan season. But theology has always fascinated me. Two very important religions are connected with each other: Christianity and Islam. Both the religions believe in the existence of a God, and that there is only one God. Furthermore, the two religions also share a historical and traditional connection: both originated in the Middle East and it is fundamental for Muslims to believe in Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity.

Reasons such as these are sufficient to want religious harmony between the two religions because these similarities are not ordinary similarities: so many religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which are also two major religions differ immensely from Christianity and Islam. It’s very disheartening to see that where there should be religious harmony, there is only differences sometimes because of a backward (and very incorrect) idea of religion itself.

Followers of Hinduism believe in the existence (and worship) of numerous gods and it’s a religion which can be classified as paganism. It’s not too much of a far-fetched theory exactly because in ancient Greek scripture, there are mentions of the Greeks believing in the existence of many gods. Buddhism, meanwhile, preaches that there is no personal god and that nothing is permanent and change is always a possibility.

I find theology interesting because what each religion preaches are sensible statements in today’s world.

Every religion comes with their own sets of ideas. In Islam, fasting is observed by Muslims during the Holy month of Ramadan. In one of the verses of the religious text for Islam, the Qur’an, it is written:

(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.

– Surah Baqarah 2:184

This writing can be interpreted as: a Muslim should fast because it will then help the conditions of the very poor because for 29 to 30 days, for a period during every day, Muslims are abstaining from amongst many things, food and drink, which the poor can ill afford. Furthermore, it is written that it’s good if a Muslim fasts but only if they know how to.

The verses of the Qur’an are the revelations, which Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam) had during his lifetime. After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an has often been understood (or interpreted) with the help of hadiths (Arabic word for ‘report’) and this practice is inclusive of the tafsir (Arabic word for ‘critical explanation/interpretation of a religious text’) written in the Qur’an.

Hadiths are subordinate to the Qur’an and numerous branches of Islam follow numerous hadiths. As a result, the general understanding regarding fasting (for Muslims) these days is that it’s mandatory but that’s not a belief, which seems to coincide with the above mentioned verse from the Qur’an – it is written in the verse that a person should really fast if they only know how to. The belief behind why fasting for a Muslim is a noble idea is reflective of the times today because there are many poor (and needy) people in the world and observing fasting during a holy month confines belief that a person can be one with the poor (and the needy) around the globe.

The Hunger Problem

Embed from Getty Images

Malnourishment (or malnutrition) is a major cause for concern in numerous countries around the world, from Bangladesh to Madagascar. Prices of food and a person’s diet determines whether or not he or she would rank in the malnourishment scale. It’s not just about less food consumption – if a person’s diet is folded to include an overt amount of rice or corn, it may lead to malnutrition because the diet lacks other necessary nutrition, which a well-thought-of diet would provide, with a lot of simplicity; it’s more close to the scenario of overeating leading to malnutrition, as well.

The time periods 1990-1992 and 2012-2014 saw a 42percent reduction in undernourishment in developing countries. It’s only been lowered by a margin in India and Bangladesh, but the rest of Asia is doing a lot better with the reduction of undernourishment.

The greatest risk associated with malnutrition is how it can affect poor people because of an unequal access to education or them having an uneven income. Previously, in Bangladesh, a poor socioeconomic condition was connected to persistent malnutrition. In developing countries food prices for milk, fruits and meats, should be targeted and lowered, instead of raising it, as is happening. A global food price crisis might not be in the cards, as of now, but it’s definitely not helping poverty groups with their need for basic, daily nutrition.

The targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were met by East Asia, South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015, as the regions were previously supposed to, within that time frame, in an effort for developing nations to slice in half the percentages of hungry people. It’s important to note that the world does produce sufficient food for every individual to eat. But because the price problem still persists, followed by a low agricultural efficiency and loss subsequent to harvest, issues of hunger still prevails.

Mobile Networks in Asia

Embed from Getty Images

My new mobile network provider Robi got me thinking more about telecommunications in Asia. Robi is also known in Bangladesh as Robi Axiata Limited – the mobile network operator is a joint venture between Axiata Group Berhad (Malaysia), Bharti AirTel Limited (India) and NTT DoCoMo (Japan).

In Bangladesh, Robi is the second largest mobile network operator, which is very fantastic. And this scene of mobile network operators performing as a collaborative effort with foreign companies, is really a very good reflection of mobile telecommunications in Bangladesh. Indeed, two other big mobile networks in the nation: Grameenphone and Banglalink also function in a similar way. Grameenphone is a collaborative effort between Telenor (Norway) + Grameen Telecom, and Banglalink is owned entirely by a Maltese company.

Axiata holds a 68.7% stake in Robi, Bharti AirTel holds 25%, and NTT DoCoMo has the remaining 6.3%. Meanwhile, Telenor owns a 55.8% stake for perhaps its biggest rival – the largest telecommunications provider in the country, GrameenPhone. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo is the chief mobile phone operator, whilst Bharti AirTel operates mostly in South Asia and Africa. Axiata has numerous services across Asia, from Celcom (Malaysia), to Idea (India). Celcom is Malaysia’s oldest mobile telecommunications service, and Idea is the third largest mobile network operator in India – this is entirely by national subscribers base; AirTel is the third largest mobile network operator in the world, by subscribers base – hardly surprising, when India’s an overpopulated state.

Turkey’s New Vote

Embed from Getty Images

New powers and a new reality, following a coup d’etat

Turkey’s new vote on Tuesday on amending constitutional rights and taking the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential democracy, resulted in a lead for the ‘Yes’ vote. It’s still pretty early stages but soon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could find himself granted with more powers and control over the state than before. Erdogan has been in power in Turkey since 2003 and he has grown into a leader who views opposition as enemies to the state.

Turkey is still fragile and healing from the aftermath of a failed coup – tourism in the country already took a bad dent for it. Rooting out corruption, extremism, ensuring greater security is a very bad need in Turkey, and the message from the referendum is loud and clear: the state is placing a great deal of faith in Erdogan’s power despite his checkered equation with democracy itself.

The campaigns put up by Erdogan’s party in power, the AK Parti, dominated both banners placed in town and the media, preceding the vote. The President likes to make the media bend and obey his every command, rather than offering them absolute freedom, and if his latest victory with constitutional amendment is installed, Erdogan will have full control over the budget, as well as cherry-picking parliament members, who do his bidding entirely. That is too much control for one politician to have and it’s not hard to pluck out authoritarian sentiments lining Erdogan’s latest desire.

It is true that no matter the nature of political ideology that the Turkish President likes to portray, with Erdogan in power, Turkey is taking turtle-steps towards bettering national democratic values. Erdogan and his party had once turned a shanty town inhabited by peasants from rural areas (who came to the locality to look for work) into a town filled with apartments, roads and shops. Erdogan had also promised to provide Kurds with rights and help them find peace, previously, although it’s important to note that since 2015 progress has stalled.

The latest military coup has brought back horrible pasts to Turkey, that it had thought it had said goodbye to. The coup d’etat has left Turkish people feeling trapped in their own country. Turkey is no longer the same republic it had been, when it was founded five years after the first world war. The state is a lot more against the West and more religious, nowadays – Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. The national atmosphere has been one of defiance following the coup d’etat but there is no denying that the state needs to focus on nation building efforts, again, or nation rebuilding efforts, where the prime focus should be upholding democratic values and it can begin with a vote of confidence in Erdogan once more.

South Korea’s General Elections

Embed from Getty Images

Snap elections were announced following Park Geun-hye’s forced removal from office, and the result of that installed Moon Jae-in as the next President of South Korea

Moon Jae-in was recently declared the winner in the South Korean presidential elections, and his win came as a bit of a surprise, given Moon’s past track record of having constantly protested against dynastical rule by Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye. The win for Moon can be regarded as a landslide and it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the negativity that has been circulating around South Korean politics for quite some time now. Ever since, the last president, Park Geun-hye, was sent to prison following a parliament impeachment because of having taken bribes from large corporations with a friend, as well as both permitting her friend to interfere in policy-making and sharing state secrets with her, the next wise political step for South Korea has been shrouded in confusion.

Moon’s recent electoral victory has largely been about making the Korean state fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor, corruption in South Korean society because of the government’s close connections to big corporations, and the grievous difficulty in securing jobs for the young are major issues, which Moon should use his singular five-year term in power to address. Moon has promised to make his government more kind to the public’s concerns – more than half of his votes came from young people in their twenties and thirties, so over the big question of providing more employment opportunities to young South Koreans, which at the time is tough to get without good connections, Moon has promised job creation, primarily in the public sector, a portion of which will be targeted towards young people in South Korea.

Major challenges also exist for Moon over bettering relations with neighbour states: Japan, China and North Korea. South Korea and North Korea still do not see eye-to-eye on matters very much because of the latter’s constant insistence of ramming up nuclear developments. It’s so tough to imagine a different orientation of matters but Moon has offered to reach out if things improve – at the moment, President Trump is pressing for payment of a US-born missile-defence system (THAAD), which brews concern over South Korea’s relations with China because the communist state is already unhappy about THAAD’s use, leading it to boycott South Korean goods. Meanwhile, Japan’s trouble with South Korea is an entirely different one though – the state is not pleased with a revival of anti-Japan protests in South Korea, over what happened during the second world war.

Snap Elections in the UK

Embed from Getty Images

A deeply unpopular election is to be held on 8 June, which will be contested by all major parties in the country, from the Labour Party to the Lib Dems

Snap elections in the United Kingdom were recently announced by Theresa May but there is no clue whatsoever as to why. Theresa is practically unopposed in both the House of Lords and the Commons, so there is no crisis to her leadership in sight there that would demand a general election so soon but the new Prime Minister took it upon herself to press forward with the decision to hold one anyways. It’s not just that: Britons are not in want of a general election, and earlier on when Theresa took over Westminster following David Cameron’s departure from Downing Street, she had made it clear that no general elections are going to happen until 2020.

A whole host of people are once again running for elections, from Kenneth Clarke MP, who’s a major antagonist to Theresa’s plans in Westminster – he had opposed Brexit, to Jeremy Corbyn, who unsurprisingly (and shamelessly) insists he will still be the Labour leader if he loses this set of elections. It all boils down to how hard it is really to justify the reasons for snap elections however, because there is no war going on and also no news media has been widely (and vigorously) campaigning for one to happen this early, which desperately needs to be addressed. Because of all of that, judgements towards the latest midterm Prime Minster of the United Kingdom simply increases tenfold.

In my honest opinion, it doesn’t really matter whether Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May comes to power because they are both unsatisfactory leaders in their own right. Corbyn is not a popular Labour leader amongst his party contemporaries – in fact, several polls since his election as the leader of the party also suggest that Labour voters want to see him replaced. Meanwhile, the damage that Theresa did to British politics for this decision alone, is hard to recover from because she comes across as a hypocrite and an idiot.

Theresa called an election because she is unable to band together and differences exist in Westminster but that is just what Westminster is. Maybe Theresa should have been more well-versed on that aspect of politics, as well. The tense climate that the country is teetering on at the moment, following a Brexit did not need a further injection of a new general election but that is just what it got because the Labour Party feels like it should respond to this by contesting in the elections too.

If Theresa is looking for support, she must promise that she has the whole parliament’s support for key decisions in the coming months on issues such as Brexit. Under no circumstances can the new election undermine the conditions that Brexit is happening over, if Theresa was to still remain in power, which seems likely. A major poll puts forward the idea of Theresa May as a better political alternative to her contemporaries, particularly Jeremy Corbyn, and the Tory party has not enjoyed this much support since 2008, when Gordon Brown was the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom and national recession was still widespread.