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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

Poverty in EgyptNearly one-third of Egyptians fall below the poverty line, with the unemployment rate trending higher than extremely impoverished countries such as Ghana, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. In 2011, lasting poverty rates and poor living conditions caused Egyptian retaliation against the government. Political instability has complicated Egypt’s foreign partnerships since that time, subsequently affecting all areas of the economy; as a result, foreign investment in the country’s resources has had notable fluctuations. The inconsistency in Egypt’s economy leaves few employment opportunities, especially among younger generations, inevitably affecting rates of poverty in Egypt.

Travel in Egypt

Typically, travelers visiting Egypt receive encouragement to exercise increased caution, per the U.S. Global Health Advisory. The country ranks two out of four on the U.S. Department of State’s safety scale; this rating indicates that the U.S. Department of State has approved travel there although tourists should recognize the possible risks. This system is not solely unique to the United States – many countries have similar regulations. However, due to the global impact of COVID-19, regular travel ratings are momentarily on hold.

Factors responsible for Egypt’s pre-pandemic, level-two status include levels of terrorism and lingering tensions with the U.S. Embassy. This score is an improvement from a travel rating of four in 2011. Egypt received this high rating during a violent national rebellion that broke out against police brutality, the poor economy and religious divides. When a country has a level-four rating, the U.S. Department of State tells Americans not to travel there.

Tourism’s Impact on Egypt’s Economy

In February 2019, research expert Amna Puri-Mirza provided a statistical analysis that demonstrated that a decline in tourism impacted the Egyptian economy. From 2010 to 2011, national profits from the tourist industry dropped 32 percent in reaction to the Egyptian rebellion. In 2015, news of a Russian airline crash that was traveling to Cairo decreased tourism from 14.7 million to 5.4 million people in 2016.

The connection between tourism and poverty in Egypt correlates with the market value of different services and goods that the country produces; profits from tourism hold a large percentage of the country’s overall income. In 2018, tourism supported 2.5 million jobs, indicating heavy reliance on the industry. When situations adversely impact tourism around the globe, this substantially impacts the economy, and in turn, poverty in Egypt.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Egypt

Working to ease economic stress, the Egyptian government succeeded in obtaining a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. While there might be uncertainties for the future of the loan, it is certainly aiding the nation in the return of tourists. Research on Egypt’s travel and tourism show promising signs of continued recovery, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 2019, Egypt’s tourism level improved by 16.5 percent from the previous year, which is higher than the global average. Such an incredible growth rate is a promising sign for the rates of poverty in Egypt.

Foreign Relations with the U.S.

Despite past tensions, the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt has greatly improved. The established relationship could substantially impact the state of poverty in Egypt. The Trump Administration announced a priority of aid for Egypt; specifically, it intends to provide economic reforms and military funds to combat radical terrorism in Egypt. “Our relationship has never been stronger. And we’re working with Egypt on many different fronts,” said President Trump. Upon continuing a solid relationship with the U.S., the Egyptian government could utilize the support in developing a sustainable economy post-loan.

Other Initiatives

Egyptian President El-Sisiis and his officials are also working on economic reform needed to reduce poverty in Egypt. Like many nations, the sudden 2020 Coronavirus outbreak presents additional obstacles in accomplishing this goal. Experts expect that Egypt’s tourism industry will lose more than 40,000 workers to unemployment as a result.

Now, more families will be at risk of falling into poverty, causing a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. On March 20, 2020, The World Bank Group donated $7.9 million to fund Egypt’s emergency response. The nonprofit is working with Egypt to create financial, technological and health strategies to protect citizens. Ideally, the country should be able to avoid the anticipated increase in poverty in Egypt through this aid. Assisting the Egyptian economy has become an international effort. Not only is does The World Bank intend for the aid to provide the government with resources, but it also intends to disperse it among Egypt’s citizens, especially those experiencing poverty in Egypt.

Tourism is a key source of income for the country but has recently halted. Additionally, tense international relations and a poor global image have further damaged the already struggling economy. Fortunately, new global partnerships with Egypt have aided in encouraging tourism in Egypt. While the 2020 pandemic puts this travel on hold, the response of increasing aid will support the economy and prevent further poverty in Egypt. If aid continues, Egypt will receive a great opportunity to sustain its economy and people.

GraceElise Van Valkenburg
Photo: Pixabay

The United States Can Help Refugees
The world has seen an incessant cycle of violent conflict, famine and environmental catastrophes in recent years. These events have caused an increase in refugees and displaced people to a number that human history has not seen before. To date, a record 70 million people worldwide are displaced. A significant question is how the United States can help refugees.

The United States has not only the resources but an obligation to remedy this ever-growing humanitarian crisis. Through humanitarian assistance, the United States has the ability to curb global instability for national security purposes. It is important to first understand how the United States can help refugees before looking at how to improve the current system.

U.S. refugee policy has historically set the standard for the rest of the world. However, modern policy has not evolved to meet the growing crisis at hand. It is crucial to continue the search for an adequate policy to end the push factors causing the refugee crisis and improve the quality of life for displaced people. The United States can accomplish this goal in two ways: by expanding upon existing humanitarian assistance and restructuring the United States’ current humanitarian system.

How the United States Helps Refugees and Displaced People

The United States has implemented a number of programs to improve the lives of refugees around the world. One such program is the Julia Taft fund. This program supports projects aimed at assisting refugees or refugee returnees to become self-sufficient in ways that are beneficial to their host communities. The fund provides financial assistance to local NGOs, community-based and faith-based organizations that seek to ameliorate the lives of refugees by improving economic conditions in their host communities.

With the support of the Julia Taft fund, the U.S. embassy in Chad helped open a salon in collaboration with a local NGO. The salon opened in April 2019, aims to reduce sexual violence against refugee women in urban areas. The 12 women selected for the project participated in an apprenticeship at a local salon and now have the skill set necessary to run their own business. This example demonstrates that the United States can use the fund to increase the self-sufficiency of displaced people while bringing value to the economy of the local host communities.

The implementation of programs, such as the Julia Taft Fund, demonstrates how the United States can help refugees. This fund provides refugees with the tools to be self-sufficient while also benefitting local economies. In order to continue and expand programs such as this, the U.S. must increase funding and the efficiency of its humanitarian aid delivery system. The United States sets the standard for humanitarian assistance to refugees. The United States must modernize this system for the benefit of global stability and national security.

How the United States Can Better Help Refugees and Displaced People

Increasing the capabilities of the United States humanitarian aid delivery system is crucial to managing the growing number of refugee crises. It is important to ask how the United States can help refugees and what the U.S. can do better to address this issue. The U.S. needs to empower its humanitarian organizations with increased funding and a sound organizational structure in order to address the changing needs of displaced people around the world.

In order to achieve a more efficient and influential U.S. humanitarian system, it is important to maintain and gradually increase funding to the State Department and USAID. The Trump administration is proposing cuts to both of these state entities. The proposed cuts would reduce funding by nearly one-third, from $8.7 billion to $6.3 billion. This potential decrease in funding would cripple the United States’ ability to effectively address the causes and mitigate the effects of refugee crises.

A well funded and autonomous USAID would be better equipped to implement humanitarian response programming for displaced people and their host communities. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration would simultaneously remain an independent entity focusing on policy and diplomatic responses to refugee crises. This structure would act to create a cohesive diplomatic and humanitarian response to the growing number of crises that impact people around the world.

– Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr