- Guobin Yang on China's Own Brand of Social Activism In today's New York Times, Barnard associate professor Guobin Yang clarifies that, although reverberations from the Middle East's revolutions haven't gone far in China, the country has experienced it's own subtle, but significant, movements toward change over the past several years. He explains how social and political protests have grown and developed in China since 1989's Tiananmen Square crackdown, as activists must work around the government's watchful eye. Protesters in China, whether on the street or on the Internet, "express modest and concrete goals rather than demand total change," and these efforts actually solicite some change because leaders don't want public concerns to grow. But though the government has responded with legislation to these concerns, most of these responses are superficial quick-fixes. If these trends continue, the gaps between reality and people's expectations [may] boil over into more aggressive, organized activism," Yang writes. "But given the complex dynamic between Chinese state and public activists, it's unlikely to happen any time soon."
- The Wall Street Journal Editors on Overreacting to Japan's Nuclear Accident The editors at The Wall Street Journal argue against fixating on the nuclear problems in Japan after last Friday's earthquake. They explain that the damage from this accident pales in comparison to the damage caused by the natural disasters that tore through Sendei, and that the Japanese have acted quickly and proactively to protect the plant's neighbors from the effect of the accident. The editors write that the disproportional media coverage reflects our country's overly-cautionary attitude towards nuclear energy, and argue that the risks involved in developing nuclear power should not halt progress. "The more comfortable we become, the less eager we are to take the risks that are the only route to future progress," the write. "The irony is that one reason Japan has survived this catastrophic event as well as it has is its great material development and wealth."
Jay Winter on the Post-Colonial Roots of the Muslim Brotherhood The Muslim Brotherhood's creation in early 20th-century in Egypt was a reaction to the increasing Westernization of the area after the fall of the Ottoman empire, Winter writes in The Los Angeles Times. The Yale professor notes that the forces arrayed in conflict almost a hundred years ago are similar to the ones today: "[The Ottoman Empire's] collapse led both to an expansion of imperial power on the winners' side in the war, and to an ongoing war against the West's manipulation of the region in its own economic and strategic interests." Sound familiar? Winter reminds us that painful histories do not dissipate. "If you think the explosive forces of World War I are the stuff of ancient history, think again," he writes.
Sarah Stevens on Cooperating With Cuba in the Gulf Cuba has plans to drill for oil as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida, and at even greater depths than BP's now-infamous Macondo well says Stevens in the Los Angeles Times. What does she make of this? We're doing ourselves a disservice by rigidly maintaining the embargo in this case. "Not only does the embargo prohibit U.S. firms from joining Cuba in any efforts to extract its offshore resources, thus giving the competitive advantage to foreign firms, but it also denies Cuba access to U.S. equipment for drilling and environmental protection--an especially troubling policy considering the potential for a spill," Stevens, the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas writes. Regardless of the broad economic costs the embargo has in Cuba, "energy policy and environmental protection are classic examples of how the embargo is an abiding threat to U.S. interests," she says. It's foolish to continue to harbor the illusion that these sanctions will cause the Cuban regime to collapse, and Cuba's plan to drill will proceed regardless of whether we decide to assist or not. Given the catastrophic effects of last year's spill, Stevens argues, it only makes sense to work together around a Gulf we share.
- Joseph Biden on Working With Russia While the United States' relationship with Russia has rebounded slightly from a post-Cold War low in 2008, the relationship still has a long way to go. Cooperation on the New START treaty, sanctions on Iran and North Korea, as well collaboration on the movement of troops and supplies to Afghanistan is a good start but "our trade and investment relationship is nowhere near where it could or should be," Vice-President Biden writes. He advocates for Russia's inclusion in the World Trade Organization while noting Russia's democratic shortcomings, calling corruption the "biggest barrier to economic growth in Russia."