U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

2020 election and global povertyThe U.S. remains one of the largest political powers in the world. Countries around the globe pay close attention to the presidential election and are anxious to know who will lead the country for the next four years. From COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts to foreign policies, the future of the nation’s decisions rests heavily on the outcome of the 2020 election. Read on to learn about the connections between the 2020 election and global poverty.

The 2020 Election and Global Poverty: Two Candidates

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are running as Republican candidates on a platform similar to their 2016 campaign. Running as Democratic candidates are former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both candidates have already proposed new policies as part of their campaign platforms. President Trump has proposed reducing foreign aid by 21%, while increasing border security and tax cuts if he remains in office. On the other hand, former Vice President Biden, if elected, would make foreign aid the focus of U.S. foreign policy.

As much as the candidates may vary in their views on foreign aid, however, these differences are not likely to influence the election much. Overall, voters do not consider global poverty to be a core issue. In the 2016 presidential election, global poverty played little to no role in voters’ decisions. Currently, the voters’ top five issues are the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court appointments, the COVID-19 response and violent crime, none of which are directly related to global poverty. While foreign policy remains in the top 12 issues, it is not a major concern for current voters.

The Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

The response to COVID-19 has significantly impacted the 2020 election and global poverty reduction efforts. As of October 2020, the U.S. faces five million confirmed cases, 176,000 deaths, a declining economy and restrictions that could affect voter turnout. COVID-19 has accordingly become a major concern for many voters. Indeed, 62% of voters believe the outbreak will play an important role in the candidate they choose.

Many voters are also concerned about the condition of the economy as a result of the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by an annual rate of 32.9%. Congress has also spent trillions of dollars on unemployment benefits and support for small businesses. Many of the voters who believe that the U.S. government should focus on the national debt worry that this stimulus spending could hurt the economy in the long run.

The Influence on Global Poverty

In 2019, the International Affairs Budget received $52.2 billion for foreign aid. This amounted to almost 1% of the entire budget of the U.S. government. With proposed budget cuts and increased concerns over the economy and COVID-19, global poverty is in danger of remaining an issue considered unimportant to many voters and secondary to policy-makers. Despite this relative neglect, it is important that the government address global poverty. Congress must be reminded to protect the International Affairs Budget as a measure just as important as any other policy. Overall, the 2020 U.S. election will likely have a minimal effect on global poverty, given other global crises. As such, the citizens of the U.S. must communicate the importance of the 2020 election and global poverty support to their national leaders, whoever they end up being.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

the House Committee on Foreign AffairsThe House Committee on Foreign Affairs oversees all legislation relating to foreign policy in the United States House of Representatives, including foreign policy and issues of national security. There are 47 representatives currently serving on the Committee. They consist of 21 Republicans and 26 Democrats. The corresponding committee in the Senate is the Committee on Foreign Relations. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is one of the most influential parts of Congress. It has played a significant role in shaping the United States foreign policy. Here are five facts about this important Congressional Committee.

5 Facts About the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

  1. In 1775, the Continental Congress created a committee to oversee relations with foreign powers. Its original name was the Committee of Secret Correspondence. In 1777, the committee changed the name to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. The powers of the committee evolved over the next few decades with the creation of the other branches of the federal government. However, it maintained its role of supervising foreign policy issues for the legislature. In 1822, Congress formally established the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a standing committee.
  2. It has had many noteworthy members in its recent history. Many influential representatives have served on this committee in the past decade, including Republicans Ron Paul, Mike Pence and Ron Desantis and Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Howard Berman. The current roster includes Democrats Ilhan Omar and Joaquin Castro. These prominent representatives have all influenced the ideology of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. For example, Ilhan Omar has advocated for developing countries to receive economic support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has helped to make foreign aid a larger aspect of the Committee.
  3. It has a subcommittee that oversees global humanitarian issues. One of its six standing subcommittees is the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. This subcommittee has regional jurisdiction over legislation that relates to Africa. In addition, it has functional jurisdiction over topics such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Peace Corps and legislation relating to maternal and child health. These topics have an especially large impact on the global poor. However, one of its most important functions is the influence it has over the promotion of human rights and the protection of vulnerable and impoverished people around the world.
  4. It unanimously passed the Global Child Thrive Act. The Global Child Thrive Act is a bill that would give the U.S. Agency for International Development greater authority to include early childhood development aid in the foreign assistance it provides. Children living in extreme poverty often do not have access to the education and support they need as their brain develops. Studies have shown this can have negative cognitive and emotional effects. In December 2019, the Committee unanimously passed the bill. Giving the bill bipartisan support in the Committee makes it more likely that Congress will pass it. This legislation would make a huge difference for children in developing countries around the world.
  5. It passed the Global Health Security Act. Virginia Representative Gerald Connoly introduced this legislation in early 2019. It includes several measures to ensure that the United States is better prepared to deal with the spread of diseases around the world. For example, it requires a Global Health Security Coordinator to manage the response of the government. This would make a huge difference in combating the spread of COVID-19, especially for poor and developing countries. The bill was passed by the Committee on Armed Services and the House Intelligence Committee before going to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bill in early 2020, and it is currently awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

All Congressional committees have a large amount of influence over their respective policy areas. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is one of the most important governmental bodies for shaping the foreign policy of the United States. It oversees many bills that relate to global poverty and has influenced the House of Representatives to pass many critical pieces of legislation. The actions of the Committee have a large impact on the way the U.S. interacts with the rest of the world.

Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Wikimedia


The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations oversees all foreign policy legislation and foreign aid programs in the United States Senate. It is one of the essential parts of the government in terms of shaping foreign policy. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations played an instrumental role in such historical legislation as the Marshall Plan in 1948, which provided economic aid to Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II. Its corresponding committee in the House of Representatives is the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committee on Foreign Relations currently has 22 members, including chairman Jim Risch, a Republican Senator for Idaho. Here are six facts about this key U.S. Senate committee.

6 Facts About the Influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

  1. It has a subcommittee that oversees the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). One of the seven subcommittees of this Senate Committee is the Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations and Bilateral International Development. USAID is the leading government agency that administers foreign aid for socioeconomic development and disaster relief to nations worldwide, making it one of the most critical organizations in reducing global poverty. This subcommittee reviews the budget and oversees the general operations of USAID and the State Department. It can guide the ways that USAID uses its funding. Therefore, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ influence has a significant impact on the U.S.’s distribution of foreign aid.
  2. It is one of the oldest Senate committees. Congress created committees in 1816, establishing 10 standing committees in the Senate. Out of these original 10, only three still exist—the Committee on Finance, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Relations. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has helped shape foreign policy for nearly the U.S.’s entire history.
  3. It approved the Global Poverty Act of 2007. The Global Poverty Act required the president to create and implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty around the world. The plan would also have to address extreme poverty, including reducing the proportion of people who live on less than $1 a day. The committee approved this bill, but it never received a vote in the Senate, and therefore the bill never passed. This demonstrates the limits of the committee’s influence.
  4. It has many influential senators as members. A wide range of famous Republican and Democrat senators have served on the committee. Currently, its membership includes Republic Mitt Romney of Utah, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey. Joe Biden served as chair of the committee for several years during the 2000s, including when the committee approved the Global Poverty Act. High-profile senators such as these, who are famous on a national level, bring publicity to the committee, which can increase the Senate committee’s influence.
  5. Some members have introduced legislation to increase funding for the international response to COVID-19. In early May 2020, eight Democrat senators from the Committee on Foreign Relations introduced the COVID-19 International Response and Recovery Act. This legislation would provide $9 billion in funding to help the U.S. lead international efforts to contain the pandemic. These senators, led by ranking committee member Bob Menendez, believe that the U.S. needs to do more to work with other governments and international organizations to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  6. The chairman and other members have introduced legislation to investigate international institutions. In early May 2020, chairman Risch and four other Republican senators from the committee proposed the Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020. This bill would create a task force to investigate and create a report on 38 multilateral institutions that receive aid from the U.S. The institutions include the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The task force would report how well each of these organizations performs their missions and serves the U.S. and global interests.

Many factors and institutions shape the foreign policy of the United States. Throughout the U.S.’s history, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has affected how the country has interacted with the rest of the world. The ideology of its members can significantly impact the issues the Senate Committee and subcommittees focus on, where specific funding goes and what legislation is introduced into Congress. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations affects the U.S. and many international agencies, proving its significant importance in the fight to reduce global poverty.

– Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Pixabay

Joe Biden’s Stance on Foreign Policy
Former Vice President Joe Biden recently announced his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential campaign. Biden served as V.P. from 2009 to 2016 under the 47th President of the United States, Barack Obama. His political career in Congress began in 1973 where he served as Senator of Delaware and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He has the most foreign affairs experience out of all the candidates for President. Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy gives insight into how he will act if the American people elect him to the seat of President.

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not align with traditional principles of the Democratic party. He has been quoted as saying that despite the difficulty and cost, the United States must be the global leader in foreign policy initiatives. He is the standout favorite of the Democratic candidates, not only because of his experience, but also his moderate position on key political issues like foreign policy.

A Question of Priorities

Although Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he is willing to address global poverty, it is unclear if it is one of his top priorities. His legislative history includes co-sponsoring a bill to eradicate extreme global poverty for the more than a billion people. The strategy developed by the bill was to halve the number of those living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. This effort points to Biden’s recognition of the immediate need to improve living conditions for the world’s poorest through U.S. intervention.

Global Economics and Trade

In a 2016 speech, Biden touted the immense value of foreign trade to the global economy. He promoted selling more products and services abroad, where the vast majority of the world’s consumers reside. The World Bank estimates that about 82 percent of the world’s population is poor. Although those who live in extreme poverty do not currently have the purchasing power to buy American products and services, the potential is still there, should their economic situation improve. Biden’s stance on foreign policy recognizes that small consumers are still consumers and if the U.S. focuses on improving trading relationships and increasing foreign aid, the American economy will benefit greatly.

Outside of Partisan Politics

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not directly align with either Democrats or Republicans. He remarked that Republicans lacked strategy and Democrats were not tough enough when it came to foreign policy. Biden is generally dovish on foreign policy and values the importance of dialogue with all countries, prior to the use of military force. Biden is also a strong proponent of supplying foreign aid to countries in need. In 1999, he voted down a bill to cap foreign aid at $12.7 billion and rather sees a need to increase aid spending to developing countries. Among other bills that Biden supported while in Congress was a multi-year commitment in 2001 to supply food and medicine to Africa.

The Big Issues

Overall, Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he values peaceful compromises and nonviolent negotiation tactics. He also has a strong record of supporting foreign aid assistance to developing nations. International aid proponents will closely monitor Biden’ statements during his presidential campaign regarding foreign policy and extreme poverty overseas.

Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

First Ladies for Global Issues

U.S. presidents are often put in the spotlight, but what many people overlook is the work of America’s First Ladies. This list offers insight into the most influential First Ladies for global issues and their efforts to address these issues.

Top 8 Most Influential First Ladies for Global Issues

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt- Weeks after Franklin Roosevelt assumed his role as president, Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s reign spurred a European refugee crisis. Eleanor Roosevelt used her platform as First Lady to garner U.S. support for refugees. To that end, she came out as a supporter of the Wagner-Rogers bill. This bill would allow the entry of 20,000 German children into the U.S. The Wagner-Roger bill ended up dying in committee, but the First Lady didn’t stop there. Eleanor Roosevelt proceeded to establish the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children. USCOM was able to bring refugee children from France safely into the U.S.
  2. Patricia Nixon- This First Lady was known for her avid support of volunteerism and charitable causes. During her time in the White House, she made numerous journeys abroad. The first solo trip Patricia Nixon took was to Peru to provide relief supplies to earthquake victims. She later traveled as her husband’s Personal Representative to Africa and South America.
  3. Rosalynn Carter- Rosalynn Carter embarked on perhaps one of the most ambitious international missions taken by a First Lady. In 1977, she visited Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Jamaica and assumed the position of the President’s representative. She took part in meetings to discuss policy issues such as drug trafficking, arms reduction and human rights. She continued her work in 1979 when she learned of the Cambodian refugee crisis. After seeing the conditions of the crisis for herself, she urged the U.N. to get involved in the issue. As a result of her urging, the National Cambodian Crisis Committee was established.
  4. Nancy Reagan- This First Lady is well known for her efforts to address the global drug epidemic. In 1985, Nancy Reagan held a First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse to discuss solutions to drug abuse with other first ladies from across the globe. The following year, Reagan became the first First Lady to meet with the U.N. General Assembly where she highlighted the importance of attacking the world’s growing drug epidemic.
  5. Hillary Clinton- Hillary Clinton formed an impressive network with female global leaders across the world. She helped establish Vital Voices, an initiative that encouraged the incorporation of women in politics. She spoke out about gender equality at home and abroad. Clinton was one of the only political figures to draw attention to the violent treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban regime.
  6. Laura Bush- As First Lady, Laura Bush allocated much of her time towards improving global education and health. In 2005, she made the journey to Afghanistan to promote teacher-training institutions for women. Towards the end of her husband’s presidency, Bush continued traveling the world to promote the importance of global health. In 2007, she traveled to the Middle East to raise awareness for women’s health and breast cancer.
  7. Michelle Obama- In 2015, Michelle Obama launched the Let Girls Learn program. This program focuses on getting girls worldwide into school and making sure they remain in school. Let Girls Learn works with USAID, the State Department and the Peace Corps to carry out its mission. In 2016, Obama traveled to greet recipients of the benefits of the Let Girls Learn program in Liberia and Morocco.
  8. Melania Trump- Melania Trump has shown that she intends on following in the steps of her predecessors. She has targeted disease, trafficking and hunger as some of her main issues. The First Lady urged the U.N. to do more to aid these causes. She most recently embarked on a trip to Kenya, Egypt and Ghana. The First Lady was touched by the experience, and according to President Trump, there are intentions of helping these regions in the future.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr