Expert View supplement GIS’s in-depth reports with incisive opinion. Written by top GIS experts, sometimes challenging and always thought-provoking, these brief commentaries provide an informed viewpoint on crucial geopolitical issues.
Kim Watch: North Koreans have a new father
North Korea’s political philosophy makes the leader the “father” of the nation – and Kim Jong-un expects to be loved, obeyed and revered by North Koreans as if he were their biological father. Now, a new hit song is encouraging them to do just that.
The Friendship Bridge misnomer
China and North Korea have long ceased being true friends and allies. Beijing, just as Washington, is at a loss for how to stop the North Korean leader’s nuclear brinkmanship. The Chinese government wants the country to be seen abroad as a great new power, equal to the U.S. in dealing with the Korean Peninsula issue. But the reality is harsh. Over seven decades, the only policy tool that China has finessed to calm Pyongyang is paying money to the Kim family. In return, Pyongyang insults Beijing whenever its leader gets in a fit, and it embarrasses China abroad. No money means no talk.
Cuba in transition
Cuba will get a new leader in April, after President Raul Castro hands over the presidency to First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. As the country tentatively introduces decentralizing reforms and embraces globalization, the new leadership will have to answer the question of how much freedom it can allow while retaining a tight political and economic grip over the country.
Venezuela’s bond default
Venezuela failed to pay last month $1.1 billion in interest due on three different government bonds. China’s state-controlled banks are the largest holders of Venezuelan government debt, sitting on more than $60 billion of the $143 billion total. Aside from creating a tense situation in the world of international finance, the default adds to the crushing economic, humanitarian and political crisis Venezuela is going through.
Debate: What China’s new Silk Road means for Europe
In a debate last month in Warsaw, politicians, bankers and businessmen considered the implications for Europe of China's Belt and Road Initiative – likely to be Eurasia's largest infrastructure project in this century. It is both an economic opportunity and a portent of growing Chinese preeminence on the continent.
How the United States can limit illegal immigration from El Salvador
The flow of illegal migrants and criminal gangs from El Salvador into U.S. cities can only be contained when Washington helps the country address its huge problem of unemployed and uneducated youths.
Shinzo Abe’s underappreciated recovery
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have made good on his promise to pull Japan out of deflation and slow growth. A large part of the credit goes to the central bank, which stepped in with aggressive bond-buying. But equally crucial has been the role of middle-aged women, who are reentering the job market in droves.
Olympic spending and democratic accountability
Rich, Western nations are less and less eager to host the Olympics. Dictatorships and countries with weak democracies are more than willing to take them on, however. That is because democratic societies have become aware of the costs, and their representatives are more accountable. Leaders in countries where freedoms are restricted see a chance to buff their image, and do not have to answer to the people.
Economic sanctions are bound to be a long-term failure
Trade is a powerful tool – it is one of the best ways to bring people together for mutual benefit. Limiting trade can be used as a weapon, and it is one the United States and the European Union are wielding against Russia and Iran. And while the goals Western governments aim to achieve are noble, sanctions are likely to backfire. They will strengthen the regimes they are meant to weaken, and will reduce American and European political clout around the globe.