Tag Archives: japan

Japan – back to being a ‘normal’ state?

Your World Explained is back after a summer break. I’m heading back to university for one of the busiest semesters yet, as I’m taking courses in both Leiden and Nijmegen. As a result, the blog may be a little less regular than last year, but I’ll be doing my best to update twice a week!

70 years after the atomic bombing of Japan and the end of World War II in the Pacific, Japan is a very different country. From utter devastation in 1945 it has expanded into the world’s third largest economy and a vital part of the international system. The West now sees Japan as the home of anime and all things weird, rather than a militaristic and aggressive island.

A major part of this is the unique Japanese constitution, which renounces war on behalf of the Japanese people. This has long been an assurance to Japan’s East Asian neighbours, many of whom still mistrust the Japanese. However, the parliament of Japan now looks set to approve a crucial ‘reinterpretation’ of the constitution, bringing it more into line with other countries. So what exactly does Article 9 of the constitution say, and what changes are being suggested? And what impact will this have on an already tense East Asia? Continue reading

New Year’s Predictions

It’s a special New Year’s post today, but on Sunday it’ll be back to explaining your world!

Every year brings huge stories that no one expected, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Some news stories though are a bit easier to see coming. So without further ado, my January 1st predictions for the news in 2014!

1. Nothing will really change in Syria

Unfortunately, I can’t really see anything changing in Syria in 2014. This year the rebels became more and more divided, almost turning the conflict into a four way civil war between the government, the secular/moderate rebels, the Islamist rebels and the Kurdish rebels. Each of these groups is in turn backed by other Middle-Eastern countries, and even the US and Russia are involved.

Firstly this means that no one faction is likely to fail, as they all have constant support from outside the country. It also means that while the government is unlikely to regain the whole country, the rebels are too divided to triumph. More importantly though it means that peace negotiations are almost impossible. With hundreds of rebel groups in 4 main factions, getting them all to the negotiating table will be extremely difficult. My unfortunate prediction is that in a year’s time the situation will be unchanged, with the only real difference being thousands more Syrian deaths.

2. No conflict between China and Japan

China and Japan are involved in a dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which sit between the two countries and are above rich natural resources. The relationship got worse in recent months after China proclaimed an “Air-Defence Zone” above the islands, and the Japanese Prime Minster visited a shrine which commemorates Japanese war criminals.

While it looks like things can’t get much worse, a real conflict is still very unlikely. Japan and the US have had a mutual defence treaty for over 60 years. Furthermore the US has told China that the Senkaku Islands fall under the treaty. While China is becoming steadily more nationalistic in its foreign policy, its leadership knows that true conflict over the islands would be devastating for its economy. So while there might be bad feeling between the two, I don’t predict any conflict this year.

3. An awkward Winter Olympics for Russia

While this might not be a very daring prediction, it is one which has more than one reason. The first and most obvious is the potential for embarrassing protests by gay-rights activists. Putin’s ‘gay propaganda’ law has brought enormous attention to the lack of gay-rights in Russia, and numerous celebrities and organisations have called for boycotts or protests at the games.

However after the two suicide bombings in Volgograd earlier this week the government will be even more afraid of a terrorist attack on the Games. That would turn the event into a humiliation for Russia instead of the return to the world stage Putin is hoping for. I’m predicting a Games more focussed on Russian society and politics than the actual sports, making this one awkward Olympics.

4. French troops in Africa for another year

The French have a long history of intervention in Africa, and not all of it good. Many times their soldiers helped a dictator keep power, or gain it through a coup.. In 2013 however the French were intervening in Mali and the Central African Republic with the blessing of the UN.

In Mali they smashed the advance of Islamist rebels, and in the C.A.R they intervened to stop religious violence. However the situation in these countries is still unstable and the potential for more violence is there. South Sudan, just north of the C.A.R is now also in chaos. Combine this need for peacekeepers in Africa, and a French president who wouldn’t mind distracting people from economic strife at home, and the chance that the French will be in action across Africa in 2014 is high.

5. A new country – Catalonia

This prediction is going out on a limb. The Spanish government has said a referendum on independence “will not take place”. The Spanish parliament is against it. However I still think the referendum on whether Catalonia will become an independent country will take place as the provincial government has planned, on the 9th of November 2014.

The elected Catalonian parliament has set a date for it to take place, and to go against that would seem very undemocratic in an EU country. The province has a history of independence movements, and opinion polls shows that the majority of Catalonian voters are in favour. While independence would be devastating for the Spanish economy, I still predict that the UN will gain a new country a year from now.

So for what that’s worth, those were my predictions for the news in 2014. We’ll see in 2015 how I did. If you disagree with my predictions or have some of your own, I’d be interested in hearing them!