November 27th, 2012 | Cross Campus

Forum: International Affairs

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Photo by Jonathan Rashad/Creative Commons.

With the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, continuing discussion of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments on the Benghazi attacks and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s announcement of new powers, international issues have dominated recent news. What do you think the most important international event was over the past week? Hear from our columnists in the Yale Daily News Forum:

Scott Stern, Staff Columnist | Sophomore in Branford College 
The most important international event of the last week took place in the Middle East — but not where you think. South of Israel and east of Egypt, you’ll see Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive a car. It’s a country where all women, regardless of their age, must have a male guardian. It’s a country, stiflingly hot, where women must be completely covered in traditional dress and the force of the law.

But for women in Saudi Arabia, life managed to get worse.

Saudi Arabia took an Orwellian turn last week, when it began using new technology to track women attempting to leave the country. Now, when a woman arrives at the airport or at a border, an electronic monitoring system will automatically send a text message to her male guardian — even if he is traveling with her. This new policy replaces an already repressive rule, which required women to receive written permission to travel outside the kingdom’s borders.

Saudi Arabia’s new system makes even harder the only means that women have to escape its cruel regime: fleeing. Now, more than ever before, women are trapped. Saudi journalists are already suggesting that the country might take the next logical step and implant tracking chips in women.

But Saudi Arabia is an American ally. We ignore its brutal discrimination and rely on its stability in a volatile region, as well as its seemingly bottomless oil supply. To stop its increasingly repressive policies, we must move toward energy independence. We must arouse the international community — as we have against Iran and the Taliban — and use economic sanctions if necessary. International affairs are never simple, but equality is. At least, it should be.

Xiuyi Zheng, Guest Columnist | Junior in Davenport College
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you know about President Obama’s resounding victory over Mitt Romney. What you may not have heard about is the results of the Chinese “election” that took place over the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) about two weeks ago.

“Who” is out, “She” is in.

As has been widely speculated for years, a 59-year-old bureaucrat named Xi Jingping overtook the post of secretary-general of the CCP from his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Who, you ask?

Xi, pronounced “Hsi” (it’s close to “She”), is the son of a famous revolutionary leader, and thus born into party politics. He led the party apparatus in the coastal provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang and later Shanghai before being tapped by party elders as Hu’s successor.

Next in line from Xi on the newly elected Politburo Standing Committee is soon-to-be Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The size of the all-powerful committee was cut from nine seats to seven, in efforts to reduce political deadlock from within and promote efficiency.

Despite having already established their leadership of the CCP, Xi and Li will formally assume their more general administrative roles as president of China and prime minister, respectively, in the spring of 2013.

Same Old, Same Old

While Xi brims with a vitality difficult to find in his departing predecessor, there is little reason to believe that he and the rest of the newly elected Standing Committee members will institute any significant changes to China’s political environment.

A quick glance down the seven-man list reveals an apparent victory for the conservative faction within the CCP. Five of the positions were reportedly decided by 86-year-old retired party chief Jiang Zemin, known for his political opportunism and feverish devotion to economic growth at all costs.

As China’s growth inevitably decelerates with its withering exports industry and a dangerously expanding property bubble, to stick to the old doctrine of “GDP growth above all” and continued suppression of mass movements amounts to political suicide.

The new Chinese leadership faces monumental challenges in the form of rapidly widening social inequality, ubiquitous corruption and a serious developmental bottleneck in its overreliance on fixed-asset investment. While it is clear that China desperately needs bold political reform, it seems that the new leadership will be neither willing nor well-equipped enough to tackle these challenges.

Cristo Liautaud, Guest Columnist | Junior in Davenport

The International Energy Agency’s report on future U.S. oil production probably represents the most significant international political development in the past week. According to the agency’s models, shale gas reserves and oil-rich regions will fuel the United States’ lead in global oil production by 2020. By the 2030s, North America should become a net exporter of oil.

So why does some research publication deserve as much attention as the Israel-Gaza conflict, President Morsi’s power grab or President Obama’s tour of Southeast Asia?

From an economic perspective, commentators expect a boom in the American natural gas industry, as well as an almost doubling of domestic manufacturing jobs due to reduced fuel costs. Up to 1.5 million manufacturing jobs dismissed as “never coming back” could reappear.

From a foreign policy perspective, oil independence could signal a strategic reorientation away from the Middle East, due of course to reduced dependence on the region’s oil. Perhaps more importantly, the U.S. could participate in China’s thirst for energy. If tactfully applied, the added dimension to the trade partnership could improve bilateral relations and somewhat ease resource tensions in Southeast Asia.

From an environmental perspective, experts remain concerned that depressed natural gas prices could stifle focus on green technologies, as well as multilateral urgency to sign emission agreements.

Why should we care at Yale? In the short-term, the report may not flood our Twitter feeds in the same way as other Thanksgiving developments. In the long-term, however, U.S. oil independence has the potential to reshape some of our campus’s most explored topics, inside and outside of the classroom.

Want to contribute to the Forum? Email opinion@yaledailynews.com