Tag Archives: Wilson Center

President of Chile

On September 22nd, I attended the Conversation with Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile at the Ronald Regan Building in DC. It was amazing to hear her talk about gender equality in all aspects of life and the benefits of having gender equality.  I remember her saying that Chile is well off by having a balance of men and women both working in government and regular day to day jobs in society. President Bachelet also sympathized with how people treated Hillary Clinton; she commented on how horrible it is that they pick at her worst then they would ever pick at a man. Furthermore, she talked about how there should be respect for both men and women regardless of the situation and how both sexes should be on an equal plane-field. Overall, it was great to hear from a person from another country about how they feel about gender equality. It caused me to think more about how there was not enough gender equality in the world, however, with time it will change.

Corruption, Constitutionalism & Control: Implications of the 4th Plenum for China and U.S.-China Relations

The Wilson Center organized a panel where two political science professors discussed the Chinese anti corruption campaigns. China attempts to carry around legal reforms, china dream and peace reform. The campaign is a two year old corruption campaign and nothing but pure powerful politics. The campaign began in 2014 when a businessman was killed in hotel room full of enormous amount of money. After that many political leaders and businessmen were under investigations for laundering money. Scandals such as the military scandal and the promotion of jobs shocked the people of china.

In the panel the professors discussed how the US would respond to rapidly change of china. After that they discussed if these scandals are about principle or politics and they stated its both principle and politics. Some of the scandals are scandals of small businessmen who are involved of laundering money. One businessman in particular is an owner of a water company who was found in his house with large amounts of money and gold. The fear and anxiety of the Chinese citizens made the campaign grow in the previous year. Even though the campaign is still on there are positive effects expected in the future.

After discussing the different scandals of laundering money they shifted to the trial of these businessmen and how the justice system in china works. The Chinese court first considers the loyalty party and interest of people then the constitution of law. The decision puts the parry first. The government role in these trials is creating legal protectionism and denying of confession, assume without too many questions. Half of the people investigated and pleaded guilty get punishment.

The protesters in anti corruption campaigns are fighting for justice. Even though some locals are covering up scandals and many investigators disappeared, campaigns of anti corruption are still going on hoping of fighting corruption. Attending this panel made me learn more about the Chinese anti corruption campaigns and how the economy of China dropped. The professors debated on the corruption in china and the legal system after that they allowed the audience to ask questions.

 

The Political Challenges of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

I attended a D.C. event hosted by the Brazil Institute in the Woodrow Wilson Center discussing the topic of The Political Challenges of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. This seminar was led by a few speakers: Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Maria Herminia Tavares de Almeida, visiting scholar Mauricio Moura and a diplomat serving at the Brazilian Embassy, Fabio Cereda Cordeiro. Each speaker shared their political thoughts and views and provided a contemporary analysis of the politics in Brazil focusing on the current president whose popularity has led a great governmental change throughout the country. In addition, the panel also expressed their views on the cultural political economic and security factors that play an integral part in building Brazil to becoming an up incoming leader in the Americas. They made it clear that Brazil is characterized by consistent change.

The challenges of Rousseff’s administration are focused on improving transportation, fighting against corruption, improving healthcare and public security. The main point that each speaker addressed was public opinion. It was noted that 78% of Brazilians approve of Dilma Rousseff as a person and think she’s firm, honest, tough on corruption, and continues Lula’s policies. Along with that, 59% of Brazilians think her government is as good as Lula’s and 21% think it is better. There is about 62% of Brazilians who believe that this administration will be excellent for the country in the next two years.

It was very impressive given that Brazil’s Congress currently features representatives and senators of 21 different political parties. Rousseff’s popularity had to do with her attitude of intolerance of government corruption along with the fact that Brazil has a very low unemployment rate leading to the point of full employment. These speakers discussed how difficult it is for a political party to hold power for a number of terms. Although it appears that this party will face several challenges they seem to believe that their administration is the best and will bring only good to Brazil.

Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Impacts on Public Health and Agriculture

On April 10th I went to the Wilson Center for an event called Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Impacts on Public Health and Agriculture. The event speakers were Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, Catherine Thomasson, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility and William Hohenstein, Director of the Climate Change Program Office at the Department of Agriculture. A brief introduction was made by the Brazil Institute Director Paulo Sotero, who talked about how Brazilians are protecting their rainforest and the measures the government is taking to reduce extreme weather impacts in Brazil.

This event was very interesting. We always hear how global climate change will affect us but I haven’t had the opportunity to actually listen to the experts and realize the causes and effects that can affect us as a society. Tom Karl presented very valuable information focusing on the U.S regions that are impacted by billion dollar disasters. He pointed out that there is a correlation between natural disasters and heat index registered over the years. For example in California there has been an increase of forestal fires and the intensity of thunderstorms in the southeast region has also rise. Although there are some extreme weather changes that can be detected like heat waves, others like severe thunderstorm and extra tropical cyclones are harder to detect. He concluded his talk by stating that the better ability they have to observe changes the better they can understand and identify the patterns.

Next up was Catherine Thomasson, who explained the effects that climate change has on the population’s health. For instance she focused on how for example the loss of electricity by severe thunderstorms or just the increase of heat waves can impact the elderly, chronically ill and little children. She pointed out that in 2003 during the European heat wave, the number of deaths dramatically increased.  Heat also impacts the health of those in vulnerable regions like Africa. Mosquito disease and malaria are affecting areas, which due to extreme high temperature the disease is more likely to spread faster. Dengue fever has also increase in the southern region of the U.S due to climate change. Another important point she focused on was the fact that drought increased forest fires and therefore it affects vital crops that we eat every day. A statistic I found very interesting and important to share is that 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean potable water. To conclude, she mentioned that human intervention is necessary to help reduce emissions and to move towards renewable energy.

The last panelist was William Hohenstein and he specifically focused on how climate change is impacting agriculture in the US. As well as Catherine he called for a reduction of greenhouse emissions. He gave various example on how severe weather affected crops. For instance, corn suffers from high nighttime temperatures as well as soybean from water stress and high temperatures. Wheat and small grains can be frozen during flowering and affected by water stress. Although his data showed important damages towards the crops he was much more optimistic when talking about farmer’s adaptation to severe weather. He stated that farmers are adapting to the change and that they are trying to develop new strategies, tools and practices for adaptation.  Nonetheless, effects are likely to worsen significantly if greenhouse emissions remain high.

Overall I think this event was very interesting and I certainly enjoy it. Like I said we always hear about these changes but to actually see data and listen to the expert’s it changes your perspective about the issue and makes you realize that with small changes we can all contribute in solving the problem.

 

China in Latin America

On Thursday March 27, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held an event on China in Latin America. Joined by the Institute of the Americas and the Institute of Latin American Studies the event’s goal was to inform about China and its increasing presence in Latin America. The presenter Eric Olson, Associate Director of the Latin American Program introduced the four speakers. The first two, Dinorah Azpuru and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, who are professors of political science at Wichita University and Vanderbilt respectively, led a team of researchers to gather and analyze data throughout Latin America on how the population feels towards China’s involvement in the region. The project is called Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and if you go to their webpage http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/ there is tons of information about the research, something they encourage us to do throughout their presentation. The other two panelists were Chinese professor Liu Kang, director of the China Research Center at Duke University and Daniel Erikson, senior adviser for policy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S Department of State.

Although they presented precious information about countries and their statistics, I personally was expecting more. Prof Azpuru and Zechmeister touched on various points. From China’s involvement in socialist countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela to how hard it is for the Latin American population to distinguish China from Taiwan and even Japan. This last point was very interesting because I come from Peru and usually we don’t normally call Asian people “Chinos” or Chinese without thinking about the big difference it makes. Prof. Zechmeister was able to explain this point and when interviewers asked question about China, they explain first that they were talking about continental China, something which the people can identify more as the People’s Republic of China and not Taiwan for instance. Another important point about their research is that countries leaning to the left tend to see China’s regional participation in a good influential way than the U.S and the contrary happens towards right leaning countries  with China vs. the U.S. Among those countries with high percentage favoring China were those of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) Coalition whose most representative members include Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba. On the other hand, countries that score a low percentage were countries with strong ties with the U.S like Mexico and Colombia.

After the data was presented Professor Kang took the stage talking about China and its economic growth. He specifically focused on how China is looking for new markets not only in Latin America but also in Africa. Another important point was that China is seen as a negative influence throughout the East Asia region and even according to polls in China, the majority of the population does not consider China as a role model for economic policy.

Senior adviser Erickson talks about how the US sees Chinese presence in Latin America as good and is willing to work with them. They called it “The New Triangle” meaning China, Latin America and U.S. However, Mr. Erickson gave his insights about the LAPOP project and called for more correlation and to add more focus on those countries in which the Chinese have invested more. I agreed with his point and with other member in the audience how as well asked about countries were China have directed its money. I said at the beginning that I was expecting more because for example in Peru there is this big attention regarding the Chinese investors and the economic policy that the government is following towards China. Actually, in one of the booklets they talk about Peru and the fact that 40% of oil production in Peru is owned by China investors. For that reason, I was expecting them to correlate their information to those countries like Peru and also have some experts talk about the national feeling about it. Overall, I enjoyed going to this event, it was the first time I went to the Wilson Center and I would definitely be back again.

U.S. Foreign Policy – A Time to Stop Drifting? A British Perspective

Tuesday, January 15, 2013, The Woodrow Wilson Center’s European Studies program hosted Lord Lothian, formerly the Right Honorable Michael Ancram Member of Parliament, in a discussion of the shift in United States foreign policy. Lord Lothian emphasized the implications the pivot of focus to the Asia-Pacific region may have for the future of the Euro-Atlantic relationship in the context of the present global tensions, particularly in the Middle East region. Lord Lothian’s extensive experience in foreign affairs includes a career as a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1974 to 2010. After his service as an MP, he was appointed to the House of Lords as a Life Peer. Presently, he serves on the Intelligence and Security Committee and is the Chairman of Global Strategy Forum.

The discussion focused on three key areas: shifting Western foreign policy since the fall of the Berlin Wall, identifying a new phase of problems, and the challenges Europe will face with waning military support from the United States. Lord Lothian noted that after the Cold War there was a “unipolar moment for the United States to use its power to benefit the world…but after the Balkans (when the U.S. and other European powers failed to intervene against the USSR), it drifted”. He explained that with the events of the 9/11 attacks there was a clear existential threat to respond to in Afghanistan, however the purpose got “muddled up”. He stated that pursuing the Taliban was like “pushing water up hill” the trouble with which is that it will come down again. Thus, it was clear that Western forces must stay until the job was done, but the issue became defining the “job”. In this context, Lord Lothian identified three other areas where a new phase of problems has developed: Syria, Jordan, and the Pacific. With regards to Syria and Jordan, Lord Lothian underscored the “untenable position” we are getting drawn into in our misunderstanding of the Arab Spring and the rise of militant Islamism, which we perhaps unwittingly supported. Here again he points out that it is unclear what we are doing. Finally, Lord Lothian posited what the shift of the United States’ influence and interests towards the Asia-Pacific region means for Western foreign policy. Arguably, he maintains that such a shift poses enormous problems for Europe including undermining NATO possibly to the point of collapse, and exposing European countries’ inability, or in some cases unwillingness, to provide defense for the European Union at-large. Britain and France are incapable of financially supporting a larger military, Germany is not willing to “underwrite European security outside of the European theatre”, and other countries would face the impossible task of increasing their defense budgets “150-200%”. Lord Lothian’s final assessment: Europe is simply not able to conduct security the same without the United States.

In closing, Lord Lothian took the time to answer audience questions. One of the interesting points he made was in articulating the challenges that the European Union faces in its attempt to unify the European countries. Lord Lothian noted that there is a distinct difference amongst European citizens with regard to their identity. European citizens do not feel identified with their nation. There is an internal movement in Europe and the demographics are shifting. Europeans are not like Americans in the sense that each American, regardless of state of origin, identifies as an “American”, part of the nation at-large. Europe is made up of distinctly different people who do not consider themselves “European”. Thus, unifying them under one centralized government is not necessarily possible as it is in the United States of America.

Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti

This event held in the Wilson Center on February 7th, 2013, was on “Nation Building: The Plan for Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti.” The two speakers were H.R. Vanneur Pierre, the Minister of Education of Haiti, and Paul Vallas, a scholar at the Wilson Center who focuses on education reform and serves as education consultant to the government of Haiti.

While I was aware of the fact that Haiti was severely stroke by the earthquake in 2010, I was not really paying attention to the education of the people in Haiti, but in its recovery from the disaster. It was interesting to know that “nearly 50% of the Haitian population is under the age of 18;” therefore, it was understanding that education in Haiti was at the top priority in the Haitian government’s agenda.

The speech by the minister of education Pierre was touching in the sense that he showed great passion and optimism on the educational need in Haiti. He said things like, “turning the disaster into an opportunity for development,” and “we want to give all children in Haiti potentials to contribute to the society.”

An interesting fact among the things he said was that 1 million children were currently learning in Haiti without parents being concerned about tuition fees.

The Peace Process in Colombia

On January 30, 2013, I went to the event “Peace Process in Colombia,” held in the Wilson Center, Washington D.C. The two speakers of the event were Enrique Santos Calderon, the brother of the current president of Colombia and famous journalist, and Marta Ruiz Narajo, another well-known journalist of Colombia. They both talked about the peace process and conflicts that have been apparent in Colombia between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The event itself was interesting because not only was it held in Spanish, but it was not a topic that I had an interest or know anything about before. All the information I heard and learn from the session was new and interesting. The speakers were very informative and kind enough to address point by point. Santos was very detailed in explaining the peace process while Marta showed much fervor about the topic through her tone when she said things like “the dirty war continues to be a threat”. Among the things they talked about were the risks of the negotiations and peace process. They were concerned about the public opinion and frustration of such a long, slow process, afraid that the public would think that this peace process will not get anywhere just like it did in previous times. On the other hand, they said that it is a positive sign to see that the armed forces are not opposing negotiations for the first time. They did not forget to mention that this problem was not only a governmental problem, but local where local participation was needed.

Politics Of East Asia

This semester I went to two events in Washington, D.C. related to Asian politics, in general, and China, specifically.  The first event was a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “Beijing As An Emerging Power In The South China Sea,” and the second was Wilson International Center For Scholars event with former Secretary Of State Henry Kissinger and former United States Ambassador To China Stapleton Roy.

The House Foreign Affairs hearing focused on China’s policies and influence, but it examined U.S. policy in the region, as well.  The Committee began the hearing by marking up H.R. 6313 about a peaceful and collaborative resolution to maritime territorial disputes, and, while the room was full of interns with copies of the bill, they put them away almost immediately because the hearing continued just as immediately.  The Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), opened with remarks not only about her intolerance of Chinese aggression but also about the terrorist attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, which occured late the previous day.  A dozen or more congressmen and women went around the room making remarks of their own by order of seniority, and they probably pertained to Benghazi as much as they did about China, especially with the Republican congresspeople.  After the remarks, the witnesses were introducted: Toshi Yoshihara, Chair of Asian Pacific Studied at the U.S. Naval War College, Bonnie Glaser, Chair in China Studies at the Center For Strategic And International Studies, Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow of National Security Affairs at the Heritage Institute, and Richard Cronin, Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center.  The witnesses gave remarks of their own and took questions from the congresspersons, once again by senority.  As the representatives asked their questions, the room began to empty until the chairwoman herself left, and someone else took her place while the most junior members of the asked their question before the hearing was adjourned.

The Wilson Center event focused on U.S.-China Relations as they related to the Eighteenth National Congress of China.  Former Secretary Henry Kissinger is a very humorous man, and he got a lot of laughs from the panel and the audience alike.  The panel included Melissa Block, the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, Jane Harman, the President and CEO of the Wilson Center, David Lampton from the School Of Advanced Internation Studies’ China Studies Program, Cheng Li, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Brooking Institution’s China Center, and, of course, the former ambassador.  Even as distinguished as everyone was, all seem to be honored to be in the presence of former Secretary Kissinger.  After breif remarks from Secretary Kissinger, the floor was opened for questions.  There was one, in particular, about the disappearance of Xi Jinping and how it may affect Chinese succession in the future.  There was a lot of talk about the new leaders of China and their experience with the U.S., along with a lot of their experience that were uniquely Chinese and how it would affect their policies.  However, the general consensus was that no one really knew or even could know so all they were doing was speculating, especially in regards to Xi, but one thing everyone agreed upon was the China would be changed.  It just depended upon which faction of the Communist party won the internal struggle that was undoubtably going on.  Althought, David Lampton highlighted the fact that he believed no surprises would ever come out of the Party Congress, but he could see the changes on the horizon.  There were remarks to the effect that the U.S. does not affect Chinese policy as much as it once did, as well, and that might be a result of the new leadership within China.  They want to create a legacy for the Party, but change is still possible from the provincial level.   After all, China has reformed from the dictatorial government it once was.

Overall, both events were very informative, and I feel as if I’ve learned a lot from some of the great minds of our generation.

China’s New Leadership and US Foreign Policy

This event, held in the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C., was specially interesting because the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joined the meeting as the keynote speaker.

While there were three other scholars that joined the conference, Kissinger’s speech marked out the importance of US-China cooperation in the world. Mentioning that conflicts between the two sides would become a disaster, Dr. Kissinger said that it required from both sides patience and understanding on the mistakes and goals that each country had.

Dr. Kissinger also shared interesting facts about China that I did not know. First of all, he said that trade in China at the time of the “opening” was less than the trade Honduras had even five years after. He mentioned that each generation style of leadership in the Chinese government had become less personal over the years; and that China was a country that is determined to be what it has always been.

David Lampton, director of China Studies who joined the group, on the other hand, made a claim that “Cultural Revolution” had hardened the generation of leaders. He also advised the public that China’s political system was NOT that different from the others. He emphasized that Chinese politicians also had political ambitions and that people should not assume that normal political environment is not present in China because it has an authoritarian government.