Week in review
26 October 2018
INDEPENDENCE RALLIES IN TAIWAN. A rally held in Taipei (Taiwan’s Capital) was one of the largest this year in Taiwan, organized by a recently-formed group called the Formosa Alliance. Thousands turned out on Saturday to protest against China’s hegemonic influence. This pro-independence movement called for a referendum on whether Taiwan should formally declare independence from China. This would mark a stark change from the one-China policy and lead to unchartered territory. This is demonstrative of the deteriorating relations between Taiwan and China since the current President, Tsai, took office in 2016. While China views Taiwan as a rogue province that will eventually become part of China again, which may include military force, Taiwan has struggled for true independence since 1949. China has already become unsettled over the approved referendum for next as to whether Taiwan will enter future Olympics as “Taiwan” instead of the current “Chinese Taipei”. With two more years for President Tsai, relations will likely continue to be rocky.
A STEP TOWARDS DEMOCRACY, ALBEIT SMALL. Afghanistan had its first self-run parliamentary elections in its history on October 20th and 21st. After three years of delay and much violence surrounding the elections, they went ahead. Ten candidates were killed and hundreds of people likely died in the violence. How democratic the elections were can be debated, only a third of the population was registered and half of those voted. Many polling stations were closed and those that were not had lines lasting several hours. Multiple provinces did not vote at all, largely because of continued violence by the Taliban. The Taliban are arguably stronger now than at any time since 2001. They control one-fifth of the country and contest another one-fifth. They are to blame for much of the political killings leading up to elections as they have been vehemently opposed to democratization. Despite all of this, to give Afghanistan a chance to build upon this democratic step forward, the results need to be accepted and continued improvements need to be made in the run-up to presidential elections next year.
THE CARAVAN. President Donald Trump has announced a ‘caravan’ of ‘illegal aliens’ is headed towards the United States, inciting more hate towards immigration and trying to stir up his Republican base going into the midterm elections on November 6th. Caravans are not new, but this is the largest seen, at about 7200 people mostly from Central America. These are people who have suffered from authoritarian regimes and gangs that rule much of Central America. The timing of this caravan has created a unique opportunity for the United States. Firstly, it may likely help the Republicans in the midterms as this sort of event can easily spread fear. Secondly, the incoming President in Mexico has vowed to better protect Mexico’s southern border, something the United States has tried to make Mexico do in the past and Trump should be on-board with. Yet, he has different methods of preventing illegal immigration, mainly by force. He has threatened to cut aid to countries that allow their citizens to travel to the United States, which would only exacerbate the problem.
CONTINUED ISOLATIONISM. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has been one of the most successful treaties in the history of arms-control, eliminating an entire class of missiles. Signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, it increased security in the Soviet Union, Europe, and the United States by eliminating intermediate-range conventional and nuclear missiles. Trump has cited China’s land-based missiles and Russia’s violation of the treaty by developing a new cruise missile. These are both true, but pulling out of the treaty is not the consensus on how to deal with the increased militarization by the United States’ strategic competitors. Instead, the United States could have sought to punish Russia and negotiate with China to join the agreement.
ASSANGE’S RESTRICTIONS RELAXED. Ecuador, that country that houses Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in their London Embassy, announced they had restricted Assange’s access to the outside world in March. This was due to a violation of a written agreement Assange had made with the government to not issue messages that might interfere with other states. Assange has sought asylum there for six years to escape extradition to Sweden for sex crimes. He has denied them and Sweden dropped the charges last year. He stills fears that he may face charges in the United States due to his actions related to WikiLeaks. Now, Ecuador has now relaxed the restrictions after meetings with United Nations’ officials. The UN has called his detention arbitrary and that he should be free to leave the Embassy without fear of extradition to the United States.