OP-ED: URGING UCSD TO HELP REFUGEES THROUGH A SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

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By Aisha Subhan
Contributing Writer

*This essay was originally published in The UCSD Guardian and can be viewed here. If you would like to submit a piece to us, then please email us.

Education is a scarce and precious resource — but a vital one. For those in pursuit of a higher education in war-torn areas, the educations of their dreams remain insurmountable. Now, new challenges lie ahead in America.

In light of recent currents events, I first urge the University of California President Janet Napolitano to issue a statement demanding protection for international and refugee students and the repeal of the executive order’s ban on student visas. Further, I urge UC San Diego to establish a scholarship program for promising students who qualify for refugee or political asylum status.

In response to this crisis, UCSD could play a unique, life-saving role. For the university’s benefit, a scholarship program of the like could further UCSD’s mission and future goals.

Within UCSD’s mission lies the following statement: “As a public university, it’s our responsibility to give back to society by educating global citizens, discovering new knowledge, creating new technology, and contributing to our economy.” Providing and assisting for the world’s refugee population, would serve as lasting investments in all of these areas. Such a population would only enrich our society.

UCSD anticipates creating a new environment that will require “critical thinking, emotional intelligence and other key skills that have previously not been emphasized.”

UCSD has a chance, more than ever, to respond, to act and to save lives. These key skills that the university hopes to emphasize can factor into a response to the very crisis mentioned here.

While darkness, destruction and despair currently haunt these nations, one must think critically about the future. The children of these nations, refugees and the internally displaced are the future of this region upon return. Why not assist these children in the building of their foundations? Why not give them an opportunity to prosper and grow? Why not help them so they can help their nations’ heal?

In responding to this crisis, one must also utilize emotional intelligence. Given the certain climate of our world order today, we must sympathize more, open our hearts more widely and imagine being in the shoes of refugees and those seeking asylum. Much of our fellow humanity wishes for escape, hopes to continue to live and aspire just as we do. In displaying who we are, we can choose to respond, to improve lives and to shape a better future for us all.

Because of similar scholarship programs and initiatives like Books not Bombs and the Institute of International Education, several success stories have emerged. Commenting on his experience, Syrian student at University of Evanston and scholarship recipient Walid Hasanato stated, “Life is better when you are genuine, simple, nice and inviting. Life is better when you are human” (Books not Bombs).

Finally, I urge UCSD to absorb this simple sentiment, to make it our own. Life is better when you are human. Life is better when we aid our common humanity. Life is better when we remain committed to all lives. Life is better when we support life.
Because I envision this program to support life itself, I have named the future scholarship program the The LIFE (Learning Initiative for Freedom and Equality) scholarship. It has the power to help us achieve the sentiments stated above: UCSD students and faculty, I urge you to help me in this pursuit.

Photo by United Nations Photo

UCSD’S WINTER QUARTERLY CONVERSATIONS IN GLOBAL HEALTH

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By: Meredith Anderson
Staff Writer

On Wednesday, February 15th the UCSD Students for Global Health, the Global Health Program, and Global Forum held the Winter Quarterly Conversations in Global Health. The event focused on the topic, “Food Insecurity – Local and Global Perspectives.” Nancy Postero, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Human Rights program at UCSD, moderated the event.

This Quarterly Conversations in Global Health featured three speakers, who each gave a brief presentation regarding food insecurity, followed by a question and answers session. The first speaker was Dr. Hanna Garth, the Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCSD. Garth presented on what she calls the “Global Industrial Food Complex” and how globalization has led to an increase in food insecurity. Garth provided the example of the 2008 global food crisis, a time when food prices rapidly increased while supply decreased, leading to riots worldwide. She explained how the modernization of agricultural practices caused such instability.

“These changes had the immediate effect of increasing food production across the developing world,” Dr. Garth explained. “However, the increase in green yields did not necessarily lead to a reduction in hunger or malnutrition.”

Dr. Garth continued on to suggest that the cause of malnutrition may not be insufficient food supply, but rather the inequality of distribution. Additionally, the foods commonly overproduced are grains, which can increase caloric intake but may not contain sufficient micronutrients to eradicate malnutrition. She provided an example of the United States foreign policy that promoted price supports and export subsidies on agricultural goods. This policy led to the overproduction of cheap goods, specifically corn and soybeans, which were then dumped into the global market. At the same time, many developing countries were accepting loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which came with strings attached. These conditions included adjustment programs, which require developing nations to partake in “free market” style practices. In relation to food security, these structural adjustment programs led to the privatization and deregulation of agricultural practices in developing countries. As a result, some firms were able to produce food cheaply. This, combined with the dumping of agricultural goods at low prices from developed nations, undermined the local farmers in developing countries. The long term effect is the modern dependence on industrialized nations for food products and weakened economies of developing nations.Dr. Garth concluded by stating that food insecurity and malnutrition will persist into the future, but she challenged the audience to use the lessons learned during the 2008 food crisis to prevent future food crises.

Kelcey Ellis, the Director of Programs for Feeding San Diego, spoke next. Feeding San Diego is a local nonprofit hunger-relief organization that distributes healthy food to San Diego residents. Ellis began her presentation by showing a video featuring the diverse array of San Diego residents who have relied on Feeding San Diego for assistance. Ellis continued on to promote Feeding San Diego’s various programs and encouraged the audience volunteer with the organization to support their efforts in building a hunger-free and healthy San Diego.

The final speaker at the Quarterly Conversations in Global Health was Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, a Professor of Geography at San Diego State University. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli focused her presentation on “food deserts.” The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as, “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” When mapping food deserts, organizations typically base the accessibility of healthy foods off of the number of grocery stores in an area. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli challenged this notion in her presentation by claiming that ethnic markets, while not considered when mapping food deserts, provide communities with an abundance of fresh, healthy foods.

Dr. Joassart-Marcelli provided information from the local “Food, Ethnicity, and Place Project” that she works on. Specifically, she explained how the community of City Heights in San Diego is considered a “food desert” because it only has one supermarket. However, City Heights is home to an abundance of ethnic markets that serve the local community, which includes a large number of refugees from various countries. The study found that these ethnic markets actually supply more fresh food than supermarkets. Additionally, these markets offer what Dr. Joassart-Marcelli called “culturally appropriate foods” and often at a better price than large grocery stores. Therefore, she concluded that City Heights should not be deemed a “food desert.” Dr. Joassart-Marcelli also stated that the labeling of areas as “food deserts” has become a form of “territorial stigmatization and racialization.” Moving forward, policies must be more accepting of food suppliers, such as ethnic markets, in order to get an accurate understanding of which regions truly are “food deserts.”

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session during which the speakers discussed topics such as the global impact of animal agriculture, access to “culturally appropriate” foods, and the importance of supporting local farmers and economies.

Photo by: Neha Viswanathan

CHINA IN 2014: YEAR IN REVIEW

China Focus Year in Review

PROSPECT Journal is collaborating with China Focus, a blog focusing China’s role in the world and U.S.-China relations. As part of this collaboration, PROSPECT will be intermittently publishing articles by the China Focus bloggers. Our journal is excited to bring a wider range of expert analysis of Chinese politics, economics and culture to our readers.

By Jack Zhang
Contributing Writer

The Chinese Dream and its Discontents

The contours of Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese Dream’ began to crystalize in 2014. Both at home and abroad, he has pursued policies for the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ with single-minded determination. Orville Schell unpacked the ‘Chinese Dream’ into its major components at his February book talk for Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century. The realization of the ‘Chinese Dream’ is the pursuit of wealth and power to regain its preeminence in world affairs after the Century of Humiliation (1839-1949).

Evan Osnos, New Yorker staff writer and winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Non-Fiction (China Focus interview with Mr. Osnos will be up in the new year), saw two components of the ‘Chinese Dream’ in his December book talk for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (watch here): one international, and the other individual. The international component was the one on display as Xi Jinping and the 5th generation of leaders took power at the 18th Party Congress; it is the dream of national power and global ambition. The other component is the individual dreams and aspirations of 1.4 billion Chinese; it is the pursuit of fortune, truth, and faith. At times these two components exist in harmony, the individual pursuit of fortune propelled China’s economic miracle, but they can also conflict as Osnos illustrates in his book with profiles of Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, and Chen Guangchen. Osnos concludes his talk and his book with the insight that the reconciliation of the individual and national ambitions will determine the future of China.

Viewed through the Osnosian lens, 2014 was a clash between Xi’s dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and its discontents. China overtook the United States as the world’s largest economy and achieved some landmark foreign policy victories. China’s pursuit of fortune resulted in the world’s largest ever IPO ($25 billion) as e-commerce giant Alibaba floated shares on the New York Stock Exchange and made its founder, Jack Ma, the richest man in China. Homegrown smartphone maker, Xiaomi, took the No. 1 position from Samsung in China’s domestic market and the company looks poised for global expansion as the third largest phone maker in the world. China also completed the South-North Water Transfer Project, one of the most ambitious engineering projects in world history, and began construction on a Nicaragua Canal to rival the Panama Canal.

But as we marked the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Incident, China is in the midst of what many consider the harshest crackdown on dissent since 1989. The Propaganda Department under Liu Yunshan has gone into overdrive and updated its approach to new social media. Writers and artists have been reminded that ‘the arts must serve the people and serve socialism’ and, in a throwback to the Cultural Revolution, artists will be sent to live in rural areas to “form a correct view of art.” All in all, the party demonstrated in 2014 that it is more willing and capable to interfere with the pursuit of truth in China than ever before.

2014 also witnessed the eruption of the largest mass demonstrations in Hong Kong since it returned to Chinese control in 1997. At the Spotlight on Hong Kong event in October, Professors Susan Shirk, Richard Madsen, and Victor Shih led a discussion on the meaning of Occupy Central and the implications for HKSAR-Mainland relations (listen here). Professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom observed in a recent op-ed, “Beijing’s handling of the Hong Kong situation was the latest illustration of the party’s fear that its grip on the national rejuvenation package is weaker than outsiders sometimes imagine.” Elsewhere in China, terrorist attacks on train stations Urumqi and Kunming were connected to Islamic terrorists from Xinjiang and were dubbed China’s 9/11 by the media. These acts of defiance, one peaceful and the other violent, both represent discordant notes in the pursuit of faith in China to the party’s central melody. Though effectively muffled by Beijing in 2014, the tension between these individual voices seeking truth and faith and the national pursuit of wealth and power will continue to clash in 2015 and this dialectic will give shape to the Chinese Dream.

End of the Economic Miracle?

Inaugural China Focus Debate Poster

China overtook the US as the world’s largest economy in 2014 (based on IMF purchasing power parity data). Yet the Chinese media response was muted and speculation abounded in the foreign press about the end of the Chinese economic miracle. The most read article on this blog in 2014 featured a debate between Victor Shih and Barry Naughton on this very topic (watch it here). Professors Shih and Naughton each led a team of UCSD students to debate the motion: “The house believes that the Chinese economy will collapse in five years.” Both sides agreed that the Chinese economy faces some serious challenges (housing bubble, mounting debt, weak exports, demographic decline) and the debate hinged the question of whether efforts to reform to the economy can overcome some of these challenges before the system unravels. Professor Shih and the proposition team (yes to the motion) won the debate by a large margin.

As Professor Susan Shirk remarked, “The debate that we’re having here on stage is really just a continuation of the debate that Barry and Victor have been having with each other in print and in the halls of the IR/PS buildings.” Both Professors Shih and Naughton participated in a panel earlier in the year on economic reform with one of China’s preeminent economists, Professor Wu Jinglian of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Dean of the School of International Relations and Public Administration at Fudan University, Professor Chen Zhimin (watch it here).

Reflecting on the Third Plenum of the 18th CCP Congress in November 2013, which presented a wide-ranging blueprint for reform, Professor Naughton expressed cautious optimism about the reform. Professor Wu interpreted the plenum as a conclusive end to a decade-long debate about the reform in China: the market (rather than the state) will now have a decisive role in resource allocation. After being pulled in two different directions by the expansion of market forces on the one hand and the growth of state power and crony capitalism on the other, the plenum charts a course towards an integrated, open, competitive and rule-based market economy. Though more hopeful now than he has been in over a decade, Professor Wu is not as optimistic as Professor Naughton. He sees major obstacles from entrenched interests. Professor Shih echoed Professor Wu’s concerns. He faults the plenum for making too many vague promises, containing internal contradictions, and being disappointing on political reform.

Indeed, as 2014 drew to an end, after the rise and collapse of the super-bull market, the debate remains alive and well. The 2014 record for reform is decidedly mixed: a new Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Exchange was established but the Shanghai Free Trade Zone disappoints, Hukou Reform was announced but its scope is very limited, the NDRC streamlined the approval process for international investors but foreign firms continue to be singled out for regulatory scrutiny, and the pace of SOE reform remains slow. Meanwhile, GDP growth slowed to in 7.3 percent in Q3 and ‘new normal’ has become a catchword among policymakers and in the press in China. A major unanswered question is whether the ongoing anti-corruption efforts will prepare the ground for deeper economic reforms. In any case, the trajectory of the Chinese economy will continue to be one of the biggest stories of 2015.

Foreign Policy in Big Strokes

Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe shake hands at November 2014 APEC Summit.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi declared 2014 a ‘bumper harvest for China’s diplomacy’. Professor Xie Tao has called 2014 ‘a year of big strokes’ for Chinese foreign policy. Xi Jinping visited 18 countries and participated in a series of high profile summits, including a successful APEC where China and the US reached a landmark U.S.-China Climate Agreement and a number of other constructive accords. China pledged $10 billion for the BRICS Development Bank, $41 billion to the BRICS Emergency Fund, $50 billion to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and $40 billion to establish the Silk Road Fund. These investments appear to be part of a grand strategy of ‘One Belt, One Road (or the New Silk Road),’ which seeks to integrate economies and promote trade across the Eurasian landmass.

Indeed, as geopolitical crises roiled Europe and the United States in 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Russia’s invasion of Crimea, foreign policy with Chinese characteristics seems worthy of admiration. But it is still too early to tell whether the seeds China sowed in 2014 will bear fruit. As the discussions at the China-Japan Relations and the Role of the US Conference in March and the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue in September reveal, disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea remain major challenges for China’s foreign policy. Chinese grand strategy seems to be guided by a belief that greater levels of economic integration will enhance Chinese political influence even though the opposite trend appears to be playing out in the region. Despite unprecedented levels of trade and investment between China and Japan (as well as the Philippines and Vietnam), political relations are deteriorating. Closer to home, Beijing’s long-standing policy of ‘one country, two systems,’ which appeals to the business elite, seems to have derailed in Hong Kong and distrusted by Taiwan in the face of populist opposition. With the landslide victory of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this December and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party poised to regain power in Taiwan in 2016, democratic politics will continue to complicate China’s foreign policy initiatives in the region. Ambassador Clark Randt spoke on the challenges of the United State’s role in Asia’s rebalance at the Ellsworth Memorial Lecture in March.

Tigers and Flies

Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign continued to grab headlines in 2014 as disciplinary probes reached the highest ranks of the party: Zhou Yongkang (former security czar and politburo standing committee member), Ling Jihua (former aide to President Hu Jintao), Xu Caihou (former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission). “Fighting Tigers (打老虎),” a euphemism for investigating high-level officials for anti-corruption, became one of the most popular search terms on Baidu in 2014. Scores of flies, low level officials caught up in the campaign, have been disciplined as well. 59 officials with vice-ministerial rank or above and 74 executives at state-owned enterprises as well as some 180,000 lower ranking cadres have been punished for ‘breaches of discipline’ by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in 2014. This excellent special report from SCMP tracks the relentless campaign across time and space. China’s anti-corruption czar, Wang Qishan vowed at a CCDI news conference that the crackdown would never end.

Amidst the continuing crackdown, the party has trumpeted a new slogan “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” and made this the subject of the 4th plenum of the 18th Party Congress held in October. It has even decreed December 4 as Constitution Day. China’s leaders recognize the need to rule of law to constrain the abuses local officials can heap on their constituents. The Politics of Stability Maintenance Conference in August examined many of the challenges to social stability in China and the government’s responses. But as the consensus among the participants is that the party today stands above the law, and rule by law not rule of law prevails in China today. Xi’s campaign against graft serves as a poignant reminder of this fact; the CCDI’s brand of justice is arbitrary, non-transparent, and politically motivated. Rather than curbing arbitrary power of party officials in favor of a more transparent judiciary, rule of law with Chinese characteristics seems to be doing the opposite.

Cover photo from Flickr.

Photo from APEC summit from Creative Commons.