Politics in the De-politicised: TikTok as a Source of China’s Soft Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2021

By Zuza Nazaruk

TikTok logo. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last year’s “TikTok war” revealed unprecedented hostility of the US government towards the Chinese tech newcomer. The seemingly innocuous software was developed by ByteDance, a Chinese unicorn companyTikTok is a sister app of Douyin, created for the Chinese market. Both apps allow users to share and watch short videos. In July 2020, then-President Donald Trump accused TikTok of a series of breaches, the most serious of which was sharing user data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Levine, 2020). Yet, some experts, including Adam Segal from the Council of Foreign Relations, considered the near-ban a smokescreen to hinder the growth of the most globally successful Chinese app to date (Campbell, 2020). In 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app globally, with 89 million new users just in the US (Geyser, 2021). To date, 23% of Americans use or have watched TikTok, with an average American user having spent 14.3 hours monthly on the app in 2020 (Tankovska, 2021).

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Solving South Africa’s Youth Unemployment Problem: Expand Small Business in the Education Sector

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 10, October 2021

By Stephanie Wild

South Africans and supporters gather outside the South African High Commission in London to support students and protest against police violence. Rachel Megawhat.

The problem of youth unemployment has grown in South Africa for years, but now with the global economy having taken an all-time dip, it has emerged even further at the forefront of South Africans’ minds. Policy geared to expand small business creation in the education sector would be a two-for-one win that keeps on giving.

The crux of the problem

According to Stats SA (2021), in the first quarter of 2021, the official unemployment rate was reported as an astonishingly-high 32.6%. While the number of employed and unemployed South Africans remained rather unchanged from the last quarter of 2020, the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by nearly 7% (Stats SA, 2021). This means that the problem has not necessarily worsened between 2020 and this year. However, it persists and reveals a failure to both ameliorate the problem, and a failure to boost morale that results from the problem. Continue reading

US Trade Leverage Against China: An Interview with the Coalition for a Prosperous America

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 10, October 2021

By Anders Corr

China Shipping – Maersk-Sealand 40′ Containers, Quebec, Canada, 2018. Source: Wikimedia.

This interview with Michael Stumo, the CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, was conducted between October 5-6 via email.

Corr: Why and when did the Coalition for a Prosperous America begin?

Stumo: CPA started in 2008. Domestic manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and workers agreed that the biggest threat to their well being, and that of the economy, was the large, persistent US trade deficit.

Corr: How is Biden’s ally focus going for him on the issue of trade with China? Is Biden’s outreach to allies helping him on this issue?

Stumo: China understands and responds to the U.S. government effectively using leverage in our bilateral relationship to prohibit their government-controlled companies from accessing U.S. markets. U.S. allies, particularly in Europe, are generally opposed to taking sides in the U.S.-China strategic competition. Working with allies can be a diplomatic supplement, but not the main strategy, to protect our national interests. And it certainly should not be an end in itself.

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Bangladesh’s Economic Rise and the Geo-political Implications

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 7, July 2021

By Tridivesh Singh Maini
Jindal School of International Affairs,OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat

Dhaka, Bangladesh, in November 2007. Md. Ziaul Hoque.

In recent years, Bangladesh has exhibited healthy growth rates and emerged as an engine of South Asian growth. In 2019 for instance, the South Asian nation grew at an impressive 8.4%. The country witnessed a 9% rise in per capita income for the year 2020-2021 (its per capita income was estimated at 2,227 USD, and it surpassed India’s GDP per capita during 2020-2021 which was 1,947 USD).

The World Bank has revised Bangladesh’s GDP growth for 2020-2021, as a result of higher than expected remittance flows (while earlier it had predicted that the South Asian nation’s GDP would grow by 1.7% it has revised estimates to 3.6%). The International Monetary Fund’s forecasts for the South Asian nation’s economic growth are higher. “According to IMF, [the] global economy will grow by 6.0% in real term[s] in 2021 and 4.4% in 2022. Whereas, their forecast for Bangladesh is 5.0% in 2021 and 7.5% in 2022,” said the minister.

Bangladesh’s economic progress has been attributed to a holistic, economic vision with a strong thrust on social service indicators and policies that focus on strengthening the country’s manufacturing sector.

Bangladesh’s increasing importance in South Asia

In addition to its economic rise, Bangladesh is also keen to enhance its overall image in South Asia.

First, Bangladesh is amongst the 40 countries that provided assistance to India in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The South Asian nation provided India 10,000 vials of Remdesivir, when the second wave of Covid-19 was at its peak. Apart from Remdesivir, Bangladesh provided PPE kits and zinc, calcium, vitamin C and other tablets.

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Mineral Revenue-Sharing as Peace Dividend: Incentivizing Stakeholders to Support Peace and Stability in Afghanistan

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 2021

By Priscilla A. Tacujan

Mineral Map of Afghanistan. Source: USGS

Various players have raised the prospect over the years of Afghanistan developing its mineral wealth as a means to stabilize the country, but nobody believes that it could achieve enough security to prevent attacks on infrastructure and mining operations.  However, it is possible that Afghanistan might be able to broker peace and reconciliation through a mineral revenue-sharing scheme[1] that directly distributes mining dividends and profits to the general population as well as extract concessions from the Taliban — an approach that has helped mitigate conflict in some other war-torn areas where revenue-sharing has been part of their peace accords.[2]  A trickle-down incentive structure could incentivize the Afghan people and militant groups to pursue peace and reconciliation if they become vested stakeholders and direct beneficiaries of their country’s natural resources.  While security conditions in Afghanistan’s extractive industries remain a challenge, a review of successful revenue-sharing practices in other countries suggests that a similar practice in Afghanistan may yield long-term gains.

Background: Afghan Minerals and Stakeholders

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), commissioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) to study Afghanistan’s extractive industry, has estimated that Afghanistan’s mineral and hydrocarbon deposits could be worth more than $1 trillion, with $908 billion in mineral resources and more than $200 billion in hydrocarbon deposits,[3] while the Afghan government has a more optimistic estimate, at $3 trillion.[4]  The U.S. Geological Survey has also indicated that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth minerals such as lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium deposits as large as those found in Bolivia, known for owning the world’s largest lithium reserves[5],[6]  Several assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and international organizations have concluded that these resources have the potential to contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s economy. Continue reading