Month: February 2014

Xiaoje Xu and the World Energy China Outlook

Yesterday, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Xiaoje Xu of the World Energy Division, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, hosted a presentation on the World Energy China Outlook, a Chinese perspective on global energy trends.  There has been plenty written, both on the Internet and in other news, about how China and India’s inevitable rise will mean a growing demand for energy, as their people switch from bicycles to cars and the thick smog of coal dampens their cities.  ( For a perspective of how bad Chinese air pollution is, Mr. Xu said during the talk that the latest reports have Beijing around 500 parts per million in their cities, in comparison to cities like New York and Washington which are around 5).  Yet what do the Chinese think about how to meet this rising energy demand, combined with the stresses of handling the global call for decreased carbon emissions?


On Ukraine and the siren song of Self-determination.

“If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling.”

– William Tecumseh Sherman, Letter to the Mayor and Councilmen of Atlanta

Ukraine’s new president, Olexander Turchynov, warned today of the threat of separatism in Eastern Ukraine, where there have been demonstrations in favor of the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. Whether such fears are overstated or not is a matter of discussion, as while Ukranian parlimentarians have reported “dangerous signs of separatism”, others have disputed how viable such a movement really is. But I’m not interested in discussing the viability of Ukranian separatism. I’m interested in discussing the obsession modern political dialogue has had with the concept ever since Woodrow Wilson preached “self-determination” in the lead-up to the Versailles negotiations, and believed in it so fervently that about half of his famous Fourteen Points are just stating it in one region or another, whether Turkey or Poland.  For it’s not just in Ukraine that we’ve been seeing this new wave.  On September 18, Scotland will host a referendum to determine whether it should leave the United Kingdom and become its own separate country.  The Kurds in the Middle East still seek to create their own country, and let us not forget how at the height of the American occupation in Iraq, the fashionable idea of the day was that the country should be split into three, with a Sunni, a Shi’ite, and a Kurd section.  Self-determination seems to be a simple solution to a wide variety of problems.  The idea after all, is that if a people can create their own separate state which is separate from others, then that should promote peace.  And at a first glance, it seems reasonable enough.  But the reality is that there are no shortcuts in life – and when something proposes to be a simple solution to a wide variety of problems, then one should take a second look and wonder how effective that solution truly is.  Self-determination is fundamentally a myth, for the reality is that there generally is no such thing as a clear demarcation line between one people and another.


On “Best Korea”, Iran, and the perception of countries.

Yesterday, an United Nations panel discussed the human rights abuses of North Korea, which has naturally prompted all sorts of hand-wringing about the North Korean regime.  I must admit that the surprise to the concept that yes, North Korea is a horrifying country straight out of 1984 and not just the silly “Best Korea” that the Internet makes it out to be is surprising. However, it is the concept of “Best Korea” which I would like to talk about in more detail.



You hear about East Asia all the time.  East Asia is the future.  It’s Asia, China in particular, which will dominate the 21st century.  Everything we have seen, from President Obama’s decision to continue the transfer of American soldiers away from Europe and towards the Pacific/Japanese bases show that even if China does not dominate the world like it used to as the Middle Kingdom, it remains as something that we should pay attention.