The World Today for May 11, 2017


Risks and Rewards

Stretching from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, the Silk Road underpinned China’s economic and cultural dominance more than a millennium ago.

Now, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s modern version of the ancient route, known as “One Belt, One Road” – an almost $1 trillion dollar infrastructure project stretching across Asia and Europe – is ramping up.

President Xi will host a summit in Beijing later this month with leaders from 28 countries slated to benefit from myriad projects associated with One Belt, One Road. Even North Korean officials will attend.

Beijing has high hopes that Chinese investments in land and maritime infrastructure in developing nations will strengthen its foreign influence while promoting faster growth in what could eventually become important emerging markets for Chinese goods.

Now, with protectionist leaders in the White House and throughout Europe, Beijing could stand to benefit even more than expected from the new route. One Belt, One Road is gaining legitimacy as a globalization scheme that could counteract the isolationist trends in the West, the South China Morning Post reported.

“China could develop a role as an economic leader and fill the void left by US protectionism in the international market,” said Cornell University economist Shanjun Li. That would allow China greater leeway to bolster its soft power in the region and beyond, Li added.

Still, President Xi’s prized foreign policy project is risky.

Projects in nations known for their instability and corruption could be empty investments for China if domestic strife sidetracks commercial imperatives, argued the Financial Times.

In Pakistan, for example, some $46 billion in investments, including new trade routes through unstable tribal lands, could go toward building up Pakistan’s military rather than improving the broader economy, Bloomberg wrote.

Analysts also said that investing billions in infrastructure won’t guarantee automatic access to markets along the route. In 2016, China invested four times more in Europe than European companies invested in China. Yet China hasn’t exactly pried Europe open for its goods.

Meanwhile, central authorities often aren’t monitoring the day-to-day business of many of Beijing’s global projects, a management structure that could lead to serious losses, the Economist reported.

Nevertheless, the project could still be a success story for globalization, or at least a globalized world where China is a dominant player like 1,000 years ago, the Washington Post opined.

Risks, after all, sometimes carry rewards.


Status Quota

Hungary and Slovakia took their objections to the European Union’s plans to use a quota system to allot refugees to member nations to the EU’s top court on Wednesday.

The move could backfire against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and boost stalled efforts for a European asylum system, Bloomberg reported.

The objections relate to a 2015 EU decision to revamp the asylum system to reduce the stress on Greece and Italy – the main entry points for migrants. Previously, migrants were required to register for asylum in the country where they first arrived in the EU, though many nevertheless left Greece and Italy for northern countries with better job prospects. But in 2015 the EU proposed redistributing the migrants to member states based on their respective populations and wealth.

Hungary and Slovakia have refused to take in more refugees, however. In court Wednesday, they challenged the legality of the change to the system, which was passed by the EU in a majority vote against the will of four eastern states.

Sticks and Stones

With unrest showing no signs of abating, Venezuelan protesters threw bottles and bags of feces at soldiers seeking to stop them from demonstrating against President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

The so-called “Sh** March” saw thousands of protesters flood the streets of Caracas, Al Jazeera reported. Two more people were killed in related violence – one in the capital and another in the Andean city of Merida.

“These kids live in a dictatorship, they have no other option but to protest however they see fit,” the news channel quoted one 49-year-old protester as saying. Younger demonstrators were carrying slingshots and makeshift wooden shields and what were dubbed “Poopootov cocktails” – glass bottles filled with feces.

At least 39 protesters, government sympathizers, bystanders, and security personnel have been killed since early April. Hundreds have also been hurt and arrested. However, as large as they are, the protests have failed to strike a chord with Venezuela’s poor – who have traditionally supported the Leftist party started by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Flaming Again

In an echo of the self-immolation that sparked the Arab Spring, a Tunisian fruit seller set himself on fire when police shut down his stall on Wednesday, prompting rioting by hundreds of protesters.

Hundreds of young men clashed with the police in Tebourba, about 22 miles from the capital Tunis, following the incident, Reuters reported. The same day, President Beji Caid Essebsi ordered the army to protect phosphate, gas and oil production facilities from protesters threatening to disrupt output in the south of the country.

Following several weeks of demonstrations by around a thousand protesters in Tatouine province, where Italy’s ENI and Austria’s OMV have gas operations, the deployment of troops will mark the first time Tunisia has used soldiers to protect industrial installations.

Six years after the popular uprising that deposed dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia is trying to reform its economy to create jobs. But unemployed youth in the country’s south are demanding jobs and a share in revenue from the area’s natural resources.


Number One Nugget

Social media reigns supreme in today’s marketing world, but it’s impossible to predict which posts will go viral and which ones will flop.

That being said, a high school junior from Reno, Nevada will be getting a year’s worth of free chicken nuggets after his innocuous Twitter post was shared over 3.5 million times, the most in the history of the micro-blogging social network.

Last month, 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson tweeted at fast-food giant Wendy’s to ask how many retweets, or shares of his original post, it would take to win a year’s worth of chicken nuggets.

Wendy’s, known for its snappy Twitter responses, replied that 18 million retweets would grant his wish – daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ infamous Oscar-selfie held the title of most-shared tweet at the time with just under 3.3 million shares.

Wilkerson’s appeal quickly skyrocketed him to internet stardom and he dethroned DeGeneres in due time, earning him his nuggets and $100,000 donated to the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption in his name.

Wilkerson is now mulling over a career in marketing, he told the New York Times.

“It’d be pretty cool to put on my college applications that I’m the No. 1 retweeted tweet of all time,” he said.

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