The World This Week

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The World This Week
China in Africa, and Elections in Honduras

  GP Team

The World This Week #148, Vol. 3, No. 49

Avishka Ashok and Porkkodi Ganeshpandian 

China in Africa: FOCAC celebrates two decades of mutually beneficial relationship
What happened?
On 29 and 30 November, the People's Republic of China and the African countries participated in the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Dakar, Senegal. The forum's theme was 'Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa with a Shared Future in a New Era' and was attended by 53 African countries and the African Union. Eswatini, the only African country with diplomatic relations with Taiwan, did not participate in the forum.

Despite being a ministerial meet, the opening ceremony was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who addressed the forum online and delivered a speech highlighting agricultural cooperation, Chinese investments in Africa and greater trade exchanges between China and the African continent. President Xi delivered his speech based on the White Paper published by the State Council Information Office on China's cooperation with Africa in the new era. It emphasized China's intentions of helping the African Union with achieving its goals of vaccinating 60 per cent of the African population by 2022, alleviating poverty, promoting agricultural development, encouraging investments worth USD 10 billion in Africa, providing means to digitization of the economy and green development and advocating closer cultural ties and people-to-people exchanges

The forum also adopted four resolutions: the Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024), the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035, the Sino-African Declaration on Climate Change and the Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC.

What is the background?
First, FOCAC as a framework for China's programmes in Africa. China is instrumental in developing African road and transport infrastructure and building medical and other social facilities in the continent. China's investments in Africa are similar to its actions in Southeast Asia and South Asia. It is trying to build a connecting transport system under the flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative. The FOCAC acts as an institutional framework in the African continent and provides China with a solid base for implementing and initiating its influential infrastructural and financial development plans. The White Paper on China-Africa Cooperation said: "Over the past two decades, FOCAC has become an important platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for pragmatic cooperation."

Second, China's economic interests in Africa. China's cooperation with Africa began soon after establishing China as a republic and gradually grew as African countries gained independence. However, the cooperation between China and the continent grew substantially after the 2000s. China invested over USD 125 billion in Africa between 2000 and 2006 and invested heavily in African infrastructure and other economic and social facilities. Trade between China and Africa has risen drastically from USD 20 billion in 2000 to USD 208 billion in 2019 (pre-pandemic).

Third, China's strategic interests in Africa. In the early 21st century, the Chinese economy had elevated itself from the status of a poor developing country and was now being recognized as the fastest-growing GDP. The economy was in constant need of raw material, mineral resources, fuel and petroleum, readily available in Africa. China is currently focused on securing its supplies of cobalt which is used in the production of batteries for electric vehicles. At the same time, the country pushes forward to becoming a green and zero-carbon economy by 2060. 
China also seeks to secure the support of African countries in international organizations and institutions where it has been pushing for multilateralism. A strong south-south cooperation, which President Xi projected heavily, is already underway. The cooperation between China and Africa showed its strength when more African leaders chose to attend the FOCAC Summit in 2018 than the UN General Assembly meeting, which took place later in the same month. As African countries receive enormous loans, economic benefits and profit from the infrastructural development equipped by China, they do not find themselves in a position to negate China's desires in international settings.

Fourth, African compliance with Chinese plans. There are two primary reasons behind African countries' blind trust in China. First, African countries may prefer to trust China, a country that did not exploit its resources and its people in the centuries-old colonial past. Second, Africa finds it more convenient to take loans from China who does not prod its borrowers to rectify its political-economic-social settings. Unlike the EU, the US, the IMF, and the World Bank, China focuses on acquiring good relations with the African countries to secure its interests and does not bother changing the existing anomalies.

What does it mean?
The cooperation between China and Africa will continue to grow in the coming decade as the country establishes itself as one of the foremost supporters of African development and economic sustainability. Africa's support for the country is bound to grow further in the coming decades as China pushes billions in investment and provides greater assistance than other countries. There is much criticism regarding China's lending to African countries and the status of their independence in the face of China's extreme support that at times leads them into a debt trap. However, African countries such as Rwanda and Guinea have rejected accusations of lack of freedom in their relationship and have deeply appreciated the assistance offered by China.

Honduras: The Return of the Left
What happened?
On 28 November, Honduras held its presidential, congressional and local elections. Early counting of the votes indicated the lead of Xiomara Castro, a leftist candidate of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE).

On 1 December, the presently ruling conservative National Party's candidate, Nasry Asfura, conceded defeat. This paved the way for the rise of the first female President in Honduras, Xiomara Castro. This also leads to the return of the left in Honduras after twelve years.

What is the background?
First, the elections. Honduras is known for its low-voter turnouts. The protests following the 2017 elections caused a massive migration of Hondurans. However, the 2021 elections witnessed the highest voter turnout in twenty-four years and a peaceful post-election process. Hernandez is implicated in a narcotic case, under investigation in the US. 

Second, the politics of Honduras. The institutions established to battle corruption in Honduras had existed as a mere shadow under the Hernandez administration. Several graft scandals have plagued the ruling National Party for years. Two hurricanes and the covid19 pandemic has led to a nine per cent reduction of Honduras's GDP, resulting in a sharp rise in poverty and unemployment in the region. The campaign promises made by Castro offered to lessen the restrictions that Honduras faced under a conservative rule for twelve years. These include liberal abortion restrictions, support to the UN's fight against corruption, and a major constitutional overhaul.

Third, the campaign promises of Castro. She has promised to institute an anti-corruption commission backed by the United Nations to probe the allegations of corruption under the Hernandez administration. She has also promised to strengthen diplomatic relations with Beijing. This has served to cement her victory as she is seen to be the only leader who can navigate through the economic and political chaos of the past four years. Her rival, Asfura, was less advantaged with his association with Hernandez's party, despite his promise to attempt a tax reduction scheme.

Fourth, the support for the left. Past election trends in Honduran elections since the coup of 2009 indicate a minor difference between the votes secured by the National Party and the LIBRE. However, the 2021 elections broke the tradition. Among the fifty-two percent of the votes counted, Castro had secured fifty-three percent whereas her rival had secured only thirty-four percent of the votes.

What does it mean?
The return of the Left in the Honduran elections establishes no observable pattern in Honduran politics. However, the victory of the Castro could significantly alter Honduran politics in the days to come. First, Honduras is bound to contribute to the emerging divide between the leftist and rightist rulers in the Latin American Region. Second, Honduras is set for stability in domestic politics, given the ambitious and necessary campaign promises of Castro. The aim to fight Honduran corruption has already met with the approval of the United States. This would result in a turbulence in the Honduran foreign policy, especially with Castro's desire to establish friendly relations with Beijing, the rival of the largest trading partner of Honduras. Yet, the 2021 elections in Honduras with the highest voter turnout in twenty-four years has proven that the state is now set to establish a more liberal democracy that would attempt to gradually undo the shortcomings of the past.

Also, in the news...
By Sukanya Bali & Avishka Ashok

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Expresses opposition against motion passed in Irish Senate
On 2 December, the Chinese embassy in Ireland issued a statement, expressing discontent and opposition to a motion passed by the Irish Senate against Beijing. The embassy spokesperson said: "The motion blatantly violates the one-China principle and wantonly interferes in China's internal affairs." He further added, "We urge those Irish politicians to respect China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect the Chinese people's aspiration to realize national reunification as much as they respect the Irish people's aspiration to realize national reunification, and abide by the one-China principle, so as to preserve the healthy development of China-Ireland relations."

Japan: Former Prime Minister says the US and Japan could not stand Beijing attack on Taiwan
On 1 December, in a virtual conference organized by Taiwanese think tank the Institute for National Policy Research, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "Japan and the United States could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand this." Focusing on the growing tension in the democratically ruled island, Taiwan, he also said: "A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance. People in Beijing, President Xi, in particular, should never have a misunderstanding in recognizing this."

North Korea: UN excludes Pyongyang for humanitarian assistance plan
On 3 December, the United Nations excluded Pyongyang from its global humanitarian assistance plan for 2022 released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Korea Herald reported: The Global Humanitarian Overview 2022 said, "Afghanistan, DPR Korea, and Myanmar are facing acute food insecurity situations, which are likely to deteriorate further by the year's end." This marks the second year exclusion from its assistance plans. The report highlighted: "The persisting economic constraints, exacerbated by restrictive measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, have significantly reduced imports, including critical agricultural inputs and humanitarian goods, increasing the population's vulnerability to food insecurity."

New Zealand: Prime Minister sends peacekeeping force to the Solomon Islands
On 1 December, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked troops to join the international peacekeeping mission against the deadly anti-government riots in the Solomon Islands. The riots erupted last week against government policies and issues like poverty, unemployment, and inter-island rivalries. Ardern said, "an initial force of 15 New Zealand personnel would set off on Thursday and another 50 would join them over the weekend" followed by a request from the Solomons government. She also said, "about 200 peacekeepers are already on the ground in Honiara from Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea."

Philippines: Court allows Ressa to receive Nobel Peace Prize 
On 3 December, The Court of Appeals in the Philippines allowed journalist Maria Ressa to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. Ressa is known for her investigations on disinformation and the five-year drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte. The New York Times reported: the government called her a "flight risk" because of her "recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes in the international community reveal her lack of respect for the judicial system." As more than seven criminal charges including "cyber libel and tax evasion" have been filed against her. The ruling came soon after increasing international pressure. Ressa has also been awarded along with a Russian investigative journalist, Dmitri A. Muratov for "their courageous fight for freedom of expression." 

Cambodia: Prime Minister offered support to the eldest son, to become his successor
On 2 December, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered to support his eldest son, to become his successor. In his speech at the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, he said: "I announce today that I support my son to continue as prime minister, but it is through an election." He further added, "Even Japan has its own dynasty, like (former prime minister) Abe. His grandfather was prime minister and he had visited Cambodia. Abe's father was a foreign minister and Abe was a prime minister." The Cambodian People's Party (CPP), has been in power since 1979, and it holds 125-member seats in the legislature. 

Myanmar: UN committee postpones decision on Myanmar and Afghanistan representation 
On 2 December, the UN credential committee decided to postpone their decision on "who will represent Myanmar and Afghanistan." Reuters reported: Swedish UN Ambassador Anna Karin Eneström said, "The committee has decided to defer its decision of the credentials in these two situations." 

South Asia This Week
Maldives: Chinese firm signs deal to provide hybrid solar-diesel power system
On 3 December, a Chinese renewable energy firm, Sino Soar Hybrid Technology signed an agreement with the Maldives to provide a hybrid solar-diesel power system. Earlier this week, Maldives environment minister, Shauna Aminath and the company's project manager signed the agreement. Chinese embassy tweeted, Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, "has inked a contract with Maldivian govt on 29 November to establish solar power plants at 12 islands in the Maldives."

Afghanistan: Taliban reacts to the decision on who will represent Afghanistan at the UN 
On 2 December, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan announced Suhail Shaheen as an ambassador to the UN in reaction to the UN credential committee. Tolo reported: the Islamic Emirate also said, "this decision is not based on legal rules and justice because they have deprived the people of Afghanistan of their legitimate right." He also added, "We hope that this right is handed over to the representative of the government of Afghanistan in the near future so that we can be in a position to resolve issues of the people of Afghanistan effectively and efficiently and maintain positive interaction with the world."

Pakistan: NSA meets with Russian counterpart in Moscow
On 1 December, a six-member delegation headed by National Security Advisor Dr Moeed Yusuf visited Moscow at the invitation of Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev. During the meeting, they both discussed matters related to bilateral relations and held in-depth discussions on regional and international issues. Additionally, cooperation in economic, energy, defense, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and information and cyber security were discussed.

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Iran: Vienna talks fail to resume and pose risks of collapse
On 3 December, the first formal talks on restoring the 2015 JCPOA agreement stalled yet again. The talks were scheduled to resume by the end of November and were to involve the new Iranian regime for the first time. Europe issued a warning regarding Iran's success in advancing its nuclear programme and its failure to keep up with the terms and conditions put forth at the Vienna conference. The Chief negotiator from the EU informed that the talks would resume in the coming week but also cautioned that time was limited and that all involved parties must hurry to make consensus on the issue.

Middle East: French President visits UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
On 3 December, the French President Emmanuel Macron visited the UAE during his two-day trip to the Middle East. On 4 December, he visited the UAE and later met the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discussed Iran's nuclear programme, the political and economic crises in Lebanon, and the Yemeni war. While in Qatar, Macron revealed that the EU members might open a joint diplomatic mission in Afghanistan but did not wish to recognize the Taliban government. While in the UAE, he signed the largest-ever French weapons contract for export consisting of a sale of 80 upgraded Rafale warplanes. The deal is worth USD 16 billion.

Lebanon: Information Minister resigns after statements cause tensions with Saudi Arabia
On 3 December, the Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi resigned from his post after his statements on the Saudi-led military's role in Yemen caused heightened crisis and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He addressed a news conference and said: "I won't accept being used as a reason to harm Lebanon and our Lebanese brothers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries." Prime Minister Najib Mikati also pushed for his resignation as it was key to the French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Saudi Arabia and discussing Lebanon's multiple crises with the Saudi Crown Prince.

Africa: UN Secretary-General voices concern over isolation of Africa
On 29 November, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to the ban imposed by countries on Southern African countries and expressed concern over probable mistreatment and isolation of Africans. His statement said: "The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world." He instead appealed to the countries to actively test travellers and implement strict covid prevention measures such as fast vaccination, social distancing, proper use of masks, etc to avoid restrictions on economic engagement.

Libya: Gaddafi's son approved for Presidential elections
On 2 December, Saif al-Islam's lawyer confirmed that the court had accepted his appeal and would allow him to participate in the Presidential election scheduled to take place later this month. He was previously disqualified by the Libyan electoral commission for his alleged involvement in war crimes during the uprising against his father Muammar Gaddafi. He has been cleared to present his candidacy despite the country's electoral law which demands a clean criminal record and no relation with dishonourable crimes. 

Europe and the Americas This Week
Lithuania: Foreign Policy Advisor criticizes EC proposal on migrants
On 2 December, the Chief Foreign Policy Advisor Asta Skaisgiryte commented on the European Commission's proposal regarding the refugee crisis in Europe and said that it was insufficient. The proposal aims to allow a longer period to process asylum claims to Belarus' neighbours. Asta called it a good initiative by believing that more was expected. She said: "They have really started to think about how to help Lithuania, Latvia and Poland in the face of this situation. It is not bad, but I'd say it is not sufficient. We'd expect more." However, she did appreciate the proposal for providing respite to the authorities who were overwhelmed by a large number of asylum applications.  
Turkey: Lira falls by 45 per cent in 2021 while annual inflation shoots to 21 per cent
On 4 December, the BBC reported that the Turkish lira had fallen 45 per cent against the dollar in 2021. Despite having recorded lowest values in the last week, the Turkish President has not retracted the low-interest rates and has continued with the economic war of independence. The lira's downfall is credited to Erdogan's unorthodox policies, which aim to boost Turkey's economic growth and export potential by maintaining a low-interest rate. Despite the 21 per cent increase in annual inflation. Turkey has not raised its interest rates.
Ukraine: The US warns Russia against aggression
On 2 December, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and issued a warning against ­any aggression in Ukraine. While promoting the idea of resolving disputes through diplomacy, Blinken warned that there would be serious consequences to Russian aggression. Lavrov also responded to the statement and said: "We, as President Putin has stated, do not want any conflicts." On 3 December, President Joe Biden announced that he was creating comprehensive initiatives that would make it harder for Russia to invade Ukraine. He addressed the reporters and said: "We're aware of Russia's actions for a long time and my expectation is we're going to have a long discussion with Putin."
Sweden: First female Prime Minister re-elected
On 29 November, Magdalena Andersson who resigned from the position of the Prime Minister after being the first woman elected to the post was re-elected. She received 173 votes in the 349-seat parliament while 101 voted against and 75 abstained. On 30 November, she formed her cabinet and created a one-party, minority government. She addressed the parliament and said: "A female prime minister means a lot to many girls and women, to see this glass roof shattered. I am proud that the Center Party is involved and makes this possible."
Hungary: Parliament approves referendum on LGBTQ issues
On 30 November, the Hungarian parliament agreed to hold a referendum on LGBTQ issues. The move was backed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and has been criticized for suppressing human rights in the country. The referendum will question its voters regarding the accessibility of information on sexual orientation in school syllabus and media. The opposition abstained from voting on the bill.
The EU: President of EC promises raising EUR 300 billion to counter BRI
On 1 December, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the EU's plans to provide EUR 300 billion to counter China's BRI and other infrastructure development programmes around the world. The funds will be used to build highways, pipelines and broadband networks in developing and underdeveloped countries. President Leyen said: "We want to make Global Gateway a trusted brand that stands out because of high quality, reliable standards and high levels of transparency and good governance."
Austria: Chancellor Kurz and replacement resigns, Interior Minister to fill the position 
On 2 December, the Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that he would resign as the party leader and as the leader of the parliament. While he explained that familial duties were the reason for the resignation, he said: "As chancellor, you have so many decisions that you have to make every day, that you know early on that you will also make wrong decisions. You're always under observation. You also constantly have the feeling that you're being hunted." On the same day, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg reasoned that Kurz should be the one in position and resigned from the post as well. On 3 December, the People's Party selected former Interior Minister to take on the now vacant position of the Chancellor. Karl Nehammer is all set to take on the role in the coming week.

Venezuela: Opposition candidate disqualified while President accuses EU mission of spying
On 29 November, the Supreme Court in Venezuela disqualified Freddy Superlano from the Governo's election race for his alleged involvement in an administrative sanction while he worked as a legislator between 2015 and 2020. Freddy was one of the political leaders who was leading in the vote count and his disqualification further raises questions regarding the fairness of the election in the country. On 28 November, President Nicolas Maduro accused the European Union electoral observation mission of being spies and appreciated the fairness of the elections conducted by his government. He said: "A delegation of spies – they weren't observers – wandered freely around the country, spying on the country's social, economic and political life."

Brazil: Economy suffers a recession for the second consecutive quarter
On 2 December, the National Statistics Agency announced that Brazil's GDP had fallen by 0.1 per cent in the July-September quarter. The Brazilian economy has fallen into a recession for the second consecutive quarter due to the extreme climatic conditions, high interest rates, inflation and the pandemic. The economic conditions now pose a threat to Jair Bolsonaro's re-election. On 30 November, President Bolsonaro formally joined the centre-right Liberal Party before the presidential election next year. He also commented on his joining the party and said: "It is a simple event, but very important so that we can compete for something later."

The US: The House of representatives pass bill to present shutdown
On 2 December, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the government and avoid a short-term shutdown. The bill received 221 votes in favour while 212 votes against the passing of the bill. The Chair of the House Appropriations Committee said: "Make no mistake, a vote against this continuing resolution is a vote to shut the government down." The bill is yet to be passed in the Senate and faces a possibility of being rejected due to a disagreement on Biden's vaccine mandates. However, President Biden seemed confident about its passing.

The US: Washington Post claims of massive troop build-up at Russia-Ukraine border
On 30 November, the Washington Post reported that the CIA had discovered the movement of Russian troops towards the Ukrainian border and issued a word of caution against heightened violence in the border areas. The report alarmed the US intelligence and the government at a time when US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin were scheduled to meet and discuss the Ukrainian issue. The report claimed that Russia was readying 100 battalion tactical groups on the border. 

About the Authors
Sukanya Bali is a doctoral candidate at OP Jindal Global University. Porkkodi Ganeshpandian is a research intern in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok is Research Associate at NIAS. 

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