Updating International Interactions Through Feminist Foreign Policy

by Pankhuri Prasad
Staff Writer

Feminist foreign policy is often difficult to define and specific policy measures in the implementation exclusively within the contemporary field seem even more elusive. In most instances, the public commitment to include gender issues are emerging more so in the process of foreign policy-making. It is a new set of values that are held as important, if not crucial, for determining the interactions a country has on the international level. 

Continue reading “Updating International Interactions Through Feminist Foreign Policy”


By Bijan Mehryar
Staff Writer

While the Olympics have been going off without a hitch—minus the awkward snowflake debacle—another type of sport took place in Geneva: diplomatic buck passing. The current round of talks between the United Nations, Russia, the United States, the Syrian government and representatives of the Syrian rebels broke down Saturday night due to alleged obstinacy on the part of the al-Assad regime. Since the last time Prospect covered the crisis last summer, the total number of deaths has ballooned to over 140,000. Meanwhile, the United Nations estimates that more than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced, with two million fleeing the country. In light of these tragedies, I find myself asking, ‘Why haven’t we put a stop to this?’ It’s not that difficult for the developed world to agree that human rights abuses and crimes against humanity are occurring in Syria, yet the Obama administration’s approach seems to lack both a comprehension of the severity of these events and an appreciation of their regional impact.

The president articulated several red lines, including the use of chemical weapons by government forces, that would supposedly lead to a strong American response. However, when a slew of evidence all but explicitly blamed Syrian government forces for launching a chemical attack, the Obama administration offered no substantive response. All that came out of it was a hastily negotiated move to eradicate Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. I’m sure Syrians slept easy that night knowing that from now on they only needed to fear artillery shells and bullets.

Thus, time continued to pass with little change. We left the Syrian National Coalition struggling to unify a front battered left and right by an ever-escalating conflict. The inclusion of Islamist insurgents complicates the situation on the ground and threatens to turn the region into a staging ground for terrorists.  Yet, we still stand by our muted response. Pursuing diplomacy as a first option should always be a priority, but what good does round after round of diplomatic jawing do to ameliorate the suffering of the Syrian people? How can the United States claim to be an arbiter of justice and human rights when our policies in the Middle East continue to demonstrate a Cold War-era preference for stability over democracy?

Ideals are only good in so far as they do not obstruct the pragmatism necessary to lead the free world. While the president rightly fears the specters of Afghanistan and Iraq, he cannot continue to allow the Syrian quagmire to continue. Doing so risks not only eroding our already weak image in the Middle East but also damages the credibility of this administration’s attempts to reach out to those states going through the transition to democracy.

The failure of the Geneva II talks could have been seen from a mile away, which is why I find Secretary Kerry’s outrage over their failure comical. While military intervention is messy and unpredictable, the Syrian crisis is no longer a simple paper cut that can be fixed with Band-Aid diplomacy. Rather, triage and an emergency medical response are needed to stop the hemorrhaging of innocent blood. The United States and its allies need to realize that strongman figures like Bashar al-Assad only understand strength. It must be made clear to al-Assad that unless a cessation of violence occurs, there will be an answer of force. If not, then what good are these ideals that we seem to care so much about?

Image by FreedomHouse


PROSPECT Journal is collaborating with East by Southeast, a new blog focusing on China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. As part of this collaboration, PROSPECT will be intermittently publishing articles by the East by Southeast bloggers, who all live and work in the region. Our journal is excited to bring a wider range of expert analysis of Southeast Asian affairs to our readers.

By Brian Eyler
Contributing Writer

The China-South Asia Expo opened without a hitch yesterday in Kunming despite online calls for a continuation of environmental protests outside of the Expo’s opening ceremony site. It seems protesters decided to stay home due to a combination of sticks and carrots offered by local authorities. On June 3, Kunming’s mayor announced the release of key environmental impact assessment data concerning the construction of a PetroChina oil refinery and PX chemical plant side project scheduled for construction 40 km from the city’s downtown area. Also, the excessive presence of armed and unarmed public security officers lining the city’s streets and manning the Expo site also likely turned protesters away.

What is the rationale behind the excessive security measures? What’s really at stake at the 1st China-South Asia Expo?

The Expo, a combination trade fair and high level forum for investment and trade promotion discussions between China, Southeast Asia and now South Asia, is part of China’s “Bridgehead Construction” strategy to establish Kunming and Yunnan province as a gateway between China and its neighbors to the south and west. A smoothly running Expo not only will seal multilateral agreements and high-value business deals that will streamline regional trade and investment, but it will also guarantee the continuation of soft-budget infrastructure development projects sponsored by Beijing to Kunming and Yunnan province that are part and parcel of the “Bridgehead” strategy.

The event is critically central to China’s plans for regional economic integration, so much so that Premier Li Keqiang, coming off a series of trade promotion visits to South Asian countries, was purportedly scheduled to attend yesterday’s opening ceremonies. But to many a Kunminger’s disappointment, Li Keqiang didn’t show up, and Vice Premier Ma Kai was sent in his stead.

The Expo is the continuation and augmentation of the long-running Kunming Import and Export Fair with a twist due to an ongoing provincial rivalry in China. The Kunming Fair focused on trade promotion and relations with mainland Southeast Asian nations, but in 2005, Yunnan’s neighbor, Guangxi became jealously vocal toward the volume of central level funding pipelined to Yunnan for improving relations with China’s Southeast Asian neighbors as part of the bridgehead construction strategy.

The antagonism makes sense to a degree given Guangxi’s border with Vietnam and its maritime orientation toward Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. As a result, the Guangxi provincial government gained responsibility for trade and investment relations with ASEAN states and Yunnan’s responsibilities were curbed to its mainland Southeast Asian neighbors. After years of lobbying to the central government in Beijing, Yunnan’s provincial officials gained a one-up over Guangxi: a new designation as China’s gateway province to not only South Asia, but the entire Indian Ocean region including the east African coastline. Thus the China-South Asia Expo was born and designated for launch in Kunming.

The Expo grounds are open for the public to browse through mazes of booths promoting a variety of tradable goods mainly from Nepal, Pakistan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam as well as China (which has the greatest representation at the Expo), but the real action is happening far from the Expo site.

Top level ministers, business leaders, and heads of industrial organizations from around the region are meeting at locations undisclosed to the public to negotiate multilateral trade agreements, sign business deals, and iron out the obstacles that currently block the flow of goods and people through the region at logistical chokepoints like China’s border nodes with Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.

On the agenda is a renewed discussion of highway and rail linkages between Yunnan and India via Myanmar and Bangladesh. This link will cut through and over the Himalayan foothills on some of Earth’s most rugged terrain. The route also will pass through Myanmar’s militarized Kachin state. India tabled the discussion of this strategic pathway in 2009, and construction is unlikely to begin any time soon.

Also on the agenda are talks to establish cross-border economic zones (CBEZs) between China (Yunnan) and Myanmar at Ruili and China (Yunnan) and Laos at Mohan/Boten. However, China’s success in establishing robust and productive CBEZs with its neighbors is extremely limited. Since 2007, both funding and political capital in both China and Vietnam has been earmarked for a CBEZ at the Hekou/Lao Cai border area in southeastern Yunnan and Vietnam’s northernmost province. Despite years of negotiations, the two sides have yet to settle on the structure and purpose of the CBEZ – they have wavered between ideas such as an export processing zone, a high technology industrial park, and Guangxi’s Commerce department chief declared at a 2011 negotiation that his vision for the zone would emulate the Eurozone. Clearly, while decision makers lack technical knowledge to solve this problem (and consistently crowd out the private sector in the process) the negotiations lose steam due to a failure to identify or fabricate a true economic purpose for the CBEZ. Tenuous diplomatic relations between Vietnam and China also contribute to the stalemate.

Will the discussions with Laos and Myanmar meet similar fates?

Conspicuously absent from the slate of Expo related meetings and discussions is participation from the civil society groups, academics, and the private sector outside of the region. Issues such as global warming, environmental degradation, food security, urbanization, and energy and water resource management are beginning to drive political agendas in both China and the region. Sustainable economic development in China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia cannot proceed forward without including discussion of these key issues and without reaching out to a broader base of stakeholders who are already deeply rooted in the region.

The ExSE blog team will continue analysis of the China-South Asia Expo throughout the weekend. The Expo concludes on Monday, June 10.

See the original post here.

Photo courtesy of southbysoutheast.com