Saturday, 24 August 2013

Is Xi Jinping's Crusade Against Corruption Legitimate?

Since taking office in November, Xi Jinping has been engaged in a campaign battling corruption, an epidemic that has plagued modern Chinese government since its conception in 1949. Despite a few highly publicized trials of powerful members of the Communist Party and the demand for civil servants to cut back on spending on luxuries, will any real, long lasting change come about?

At the beginning of every Chinese leader's term, policies are put in place to give the people hope for a new era of Chinese government, but these policies are then put to the side or executed ineffectively in the years to come. Is Xi Jinping's anti corruption battle just another in a long line of overly optimistic promises by the executive branch of Chinese government? For this, one could turn to the beginning of Hu Jintao's time in office in which he planned to fight corruption in government officials, but looking at China today, corruption is still a prevalent aspect of Chinese life.

However, one could also look at the extent in which Xi seems to be fighting the problem facing the nation. Bo Xilai, once an extremely powerful politician, is now on trial for embezzling over 5 million Yuan of public funds to give to his wife. Bo is not only expressing regret over the charges, but also a sense of shame, a rarity in Chinese politicians. In terms of statistical success, since policies were enacted to cut back on government workers purchasing luxury goods, overall spending on lavish products fell by 53%, thus reinforcing how much luxury good producers once relied on corrupt government officials' spending.

At the end of the day one must look at what Xi could stand to lose from a reduction in corruption, as odd as this statement may sound. The opulent and extravagant lifestyle of government officials is what attracts many young Chinese to civil service in the first place. While high level positions will hopefully be occupied by those whose first priority is to serve the nation, a high demand for government jobs provides support for the system and leads to an near endless supply of civil servants from all walks of life.

Only time will tell whether or not Xi's campaign will yield results. But I think the people of China, and the world, are hoping that this time a new, more honest period of Chinese civl servants will be ushered in.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Few Words on The Hermit Kingdom

As someone who has always been fascinated by North Korea, these past few weeks have come nothing short of an in-depth exposure of the reclusive state and its disconcerting leader. With nuclear threats, warnings of war and what the U.S. has deemed 'bellicose rhetoric' flying, the peninsula is in an extremely volatile state. The question is: what is likely to happen next?

With more than a millon standing troops, and over eight million in reserve, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has the largest military force in the world. But is it really one to be concerned about? Despite its size, it is believed that many soldiers are ill equipped and wouldn't last long in a conventional conflict with the superior, combined forces of South Korea and the United States.

Despite Kim Jong-un's apparent lunacy, he, or at least someone of influence in the nation, knows that this is the case and so the country is not looking for a conventional war. With just one nuclear warhead, North Korea could effectively hold the world hostage and it appears this is exactly what Kim is attempting to do. As the North Korean economy continues to crumble and the possibility of political insurrection mounts, the government needs to prove to its people, and the world, that it's a force to be reckoned with. While its threats are menacing, I strongly believe that higher-ups in the government and military are aware that they would be annihilated should they attempt any act of agression against the U.S., South Korea or Japan. However, one can never be quite sure with The Hermit Kingdom.

As North Korean threats rise in both severity and frequency, the United States may have had enough. The one major barrier preventing any extreme U.S. action against the country was America's fear of jeopardizing its relationship with China. But as the PRC distances itself from its belligerent neighbor and calls Kim's threats "regrettable", North Korea's vital buffer against an attack may be collapsing, albeit slowly. Should China cut economic and political ties with North Korea, the country would be in danger of collapsing financially, for China supplies a majority of the nation's food and fuel. Without their support, North Korea would be put in peril both domestically and internationally.

It's almost impossible to say what might happen over the next few weeks, but with U.S. forces on alert, China distancing itself from its ally and Kim Jong-un's threats escalating - North Korea is most certainly a region to watch closely in the coming days.

If you're interested in North Korea, especially the lives of everyday people there, I would highly recommend the book 'Nothing to Envyby Barbara Demick! Also check out 'dguttenfelder' on Instagram for a foreign journalist's inside view on everything North Korea!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Birth of Yet Another Political Blog

Welcome to The Swift Report!

As this political blog emerges into the blogosphere, I thought it might be time to give you a little bit of information about myself. My name is Ethan Swift and I am just an amateur political enthusiast trudging his way through high school in Singapore. Having lived in Asia for over half my life, I have been lucky enough to see the world first-hand and understand a little more about international relations. I hope to one day work in the U.S. Foreign Service and be able to continue to explore this wonderful and wacky planet and interact with the fascinating people that call it their home.

On The Swift Report, I plan to voice my thoughts on everything related to government, international relations (especially U.S. foreign policy) and political theory. So if you have any interest in hearing the ramblings of a boy trying to make sense of the world as we know it, you've come to the right place!

I'll be posting an analysis on the crisis on the Korean Peninsula soon, so stay tuned for that, dear readers!