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The PRC Tests its Borders in the 2023 Crisis Simulation
Written by Ciara Perez
March 5, 2023
Last weekend, Patterson School students participated in the annual spring crisis simulation. This simulation differs from the fall simulation because it’s entirely designed by a Patterson alumnus. This year, the simulation revolved around the tensions between China, Taiwan, the United States, and Japan over a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. With the help of Patterson faculty mentors, University of Kentucky journalism students, and two alumni volunteers, the simulation was brought to life. Students were divided into four teams: the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (Taiwan), Japan, and the United States. Each team was provided with the background of events leading up to the crisis as well as a set of instructions outlining the country specific objectives they were expected to meet by the conclusion of the simulation.
The situation at the start of the crisis was that the PRC had conducted a week-long military drill around Taiwan and its territorial waters, however, 80% of Chinese vessels remained in place at the conclusion of the drill. The influx of Chinese vessels in the region sent Taiwan into a state of emergency. Three Taiwanese islands, Kinmen, Matsu, and Wuciou had also been surrounded, causing a disruption to international shipping lanes, and significantly reducing trade. Additionally, the PRC was regularly crossing into Taiwan’s territorial waters and Air Identification Zone. This sequence of events had neighboring Japan and ally United States on high. In response, Japan chose to host a high-level delegate meeting between itself, the PRC, Taiwan, and the United States. With those facts in mind and the individual objectives of each team, students engaged in negotiations to resolve the brewing crisis.
Throughout the crisis, teams arranged negotiation sessions to discuss formal arrangements which would advance their country’s interests. Approaching each session, students were expected to understand the real-world relationship between the countries in play and act accordingly, and to use knowledge of existing agreements to foster and advocate for new ones. For example, one objective of the United States was to gain increased access to its military bases in Japan. Since Japan is an ally of the United States, this was an easy task because it was also in the security interests of Japan, should the PRC escalate things closer to their borders. Throughout the simulation, there were several arms sales agreements between the United States, Japan, and Taiwan to aid Taiwan in its self-defense measures. Many United States plays during the crisis involved moving its military to demonstrate strength and its determination to defend Taiwan. And lastly, there were several bilateral negotiations between the PRC and the three other delegations to attempt a tit-for-tat strategy so the PRC would agree to move its fleet back to the Chinese mainland. Between negotiation sessions, delegations engaged in a Twitter war, held press conferences and released statements, and conducted intelligence sharing. On top of all that, SIM Control (simulation leadership) sporadically sent out intelligence updates to each team that sometimes required swift action be taken.
By the end of the first day, no team had succeeded in deescalating the situation and getting the PRC to back down. Instead, the day ended with the PRC having completely blockaded the three Taiwanese islands off the Chinese mainland, causing an immediate humanitarian crisis. With citizens of all nationalities living on the islands with no access to food or medications, Japan was quick to sign an agreement with the PRC to provide humanitarian aid. The second day of the crisis, the United States followed suit in sending aid. However, the humanitarian crisis was never resolved because all attempts to negotiate with the PRC proved futile as the delegation refused to back down without the United States cooperating with unreasonable requests. One such request involved the United States fully withdrawing its Seventh Fleet from the opening of the Taiwan Strait and returning it to the base in Japan, and in return the PRC agreed that it would remove some of its ships from the surrounding area. The United States didn’t find that to be an adequate trade, as it did not uphold the United States redline to protect Taiwan, and therefore the negotiations stalled.
In sum, the crisis simulation created an environment in which students took on leadership roles, built strategic-thinking skills, and learned the art of speaking diplomatically and ambiguously. It also provided students the opportunity to better learn and understand the relations within the region, as each team was expected to encompass the mannerisms of a real delegation from their assigned country. Though the crisis did not result in an immediate solution, the teams managed to avoid open war with the PRC which meant the simulation was a success.
The Meridian Summit & Tackling Washington, D.C.
This weekend, a group of Patterson students travelled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Meridian Summit at the United States Institute of Peace. This was the first in-person Summit since COVID-19, and this year, the focus was primarily on issues facing cyberspace. The Summit was split into two locations: the Main Stage and the Innovation Stage. The Main Stage primarily focused on what was called “The Global Divide,” focusing on this incredible divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not. The Innovation Stage, however, focused on a variety of issues including inclusivity in cyber careers as well as cybersecurity.
The Summit began with a presentation that illustrated this global divide—walking through more developed nations as well as LDCs (“least developed countries”). The numbers emphasized that while a country may be “developed,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that every citizen has access to the internet, whether through a phone or through another device. What shouldn’t be surprising, however, is how large that number became in LDCs, and this divide is further deepened when other factors like age, gender, and ethnicity are considered. For example, in some parts of the world, women have even less of a chance to gain access to the internet.
To continue with this idea of The Global Divide, a panel convened to discuss what happens when the nations finally obtain access to the internet. What stood out to me the most was this idea that while access to the internet is important, it is cybersecurity that is the key issue that shouldn’t be dismissed. If one has access to the internet but fails to have the proper defense against cyber attacks, then would that person be more vulnerable than if he never received that access? The answer to that question is quite simple: he would be. Therefore, the panel emphasized this “package deal” that would need to be presented to those without internet access. And finally, the panel addressed another key component to closing this global divide: affordability. For someone in a LDC, affordability could be the one thing that prevents them from gaining access to the internet. Logically, if one must choose between food for their family and paying for internet access, one would always choose to provide for their family.
Another interesting panel included a discussion on how governments and the private sector can work together to improve what is called “tech diplomacy.” Tech diplomacy is essentially collective action between government and the private sector to maintain regulations and innovation in our evolving world. Tech diplomacy not only involves expanding access to LDCs, but it also includes keeping the internet “open and free”—even in authoritarian regimes. Moreover, we cannot discuss keeping the internet “open and free” to all people without mentioning the private sector’s responsibility in helping keep the internet affordable for all people—regardless of where they live. The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of tech diplomacy being at the forefront of modern diplomatic policy.
That night, we realized a few students in our group had never visited D.C. before, so we met up with a few Patterson alum and took the metro out to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. As we read Lincoln’s words along the walls, we were reminded of our patriotism and dedication to continue moving toward a more inclusive and equal society.
The South China Sea, Chinese Aggression, & Alleged Assault: The Fall Simulation
On October 7th & 8th, the Patterson School and the Army War College participated in the annual negotiation exercise. This exercise consisted of several countries working together to overcome issues facing the South China Sea. The countries that participated in this simulation were the United States, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Japan.
The simulation began as confronting Chinese aggression in the region. China, contrary to international law, claimed the Paracel and Spratly Islands as their own, which caused tensions among its neighbors. China’s neighbors heavily relied upon countries residing outside the South China Sea—the United States and Japan—to counter China’s aggression, and as a result, the United States was able to draft a massive multilateral agreement on principle that included intertwining of the economies, planning of joint military exercises, establishing an exclusion zone around the contested islands, and affirming that any and all contested claims to the islands would be settled within the ASEAN coalition at a future date.
The United States realized its role was to simply push back against China’s agenda in the South China Sea while enforcing international law and the freedom of navigation, and the United States utilized its relationship with the smaller Asian nations to do so. As a result, the United States was able to not only address each nation’s concerns relating to China, but the United States was also able to establish further economic and military ties that resulted in less reliance on the Chinese.
Of course, the Chinese delegation did everything it could to prevent this multilateral agreement from forming, and perhaps their most clever strategy was setting up meetings with all delegations with the intention of not following through on any of the planned outcomes arising from these meetings. For example, in its second meeting with the United States, China proposed a “green deal,” which included details on tackling climate change and global warming. When asked how China could propose such an agreement given China was the number one polluter in the world, China could not provide an adequate response—indicating China’s intention of simply stalling the multilateral agreement. The United States used this discovery against the Chinese delegation and pressed into the multilateral agreement by informing the smaller Asian nations of China’s true intentions: to prevent progress from taking place at this Summit and continue its aggression in the South China Sea. Ultimately, the Chinese delegation’s tactic failed as the United States was able to secure the multilateral agreement within the last hour of the simulation. Once all nations involved signed the agreement, the United States had achieved its overall goal: to push China back from its illegal claims and unfounded aggression.
When the United States finally personally presented this multilateral agreement to China, the two Heads of Delegation met one-on-one in the presence of three mentors. The United States intended for the meeting to be short—simply layout the foundations of the four-part agreement and to inform China that the United States would working with the other Asian nations to counter China’s objectives. However, the United States and China quickly found themselves in a shouting match that resulted in the Head of the United States’ delegation enforcing his position by shoving his finger into the Head of the Chinese delegation’s shoulder. As he did so, the Head of the United States’ delegation stated that this was the future China should have foreseen and that China needed to face the consequences of its actions. Shortly after the encounter, the Head of the Chinese delegation walked through the halls, shouting that the United States had assaulted the Chinese delegation. The Head of the Chinese delegation filed a complaint to the United Nations, and the United Nations Special Representative met individually with both Heads as part of his investigation into the incident. However, with these meetings falling so close to the end of the simulation, the UN Special Representative did not formally reprimand the quarreling Heads.
The simulation officially ended when the Heads of each delegation gave their closing remarks. Because every country apart from China had agreed to the multilateral agreement on principle, their closing remarks were quite similar and spoke of immense cooperation with the United States and Japan. China, however, did not echo that sentiment. The Head of the Chinese delegation, in a homemade sling to emphasize the alleged assault, gave his closing remarks, and his remarks reflected a sense of betrayal from its neighbors as well as open hostility to the United States. Despite China’s attempt to gain favor from its neighbors, the United States and other Asian nations enforced international law and illustrated a united front against China and its aggression in the region.
In essence, the goal of the simulation was to resolve the dispute diplomatically, and while tensions rose over the two days, students were able to work together to form firm, yet reasonable, solutions facing the South China Sea.
Movement in the Chilean Government
Written by Ciara Perez
March 12, 2023
Chilean Constitution Reform
After an overwhelming majority voted against the proposed new constitution in September 2022, a second draft is officially in the works. Congress appointed a group of experts to begin the constitution draft, which is expected to be more moderate in its language. “The experts will work for three months on 12 institutional bases that lawmakers agreed to when they gave the green light to start the process at the end of last year”. In addition to this group of experts, a 14-member Technical Admissibility Committee has also been appointed to arbitrate the process. In June 2023, the draft will be passed on to a Constitutional Council, which will consist of 50 members elected by the people. The full process is expected be completed by December 2023, with the vote to approve or reject it taking place on December 17th.
Tax Reform Package Rejected
On Wednesday, March 8th, lawmakers “refused to move forward with a proposed tax reform meant to finance key elements of the president’s progressive agenda”. The proposed reform would collect 3.6% of GDP, propose a mining royalty, and “included adjustments for income tax, a wealth tax, the reduction of exemptions, measures against evasion, and greater spending on tax incentives”. As promised by the government, the additional revenue was meant to “fund future reforms in the pension and health systems”. The bill was just six votes shy of moving forward. Finance Minister Mario Marcel has called the rejection “an issue of the greatest political, economic and social gravity”.
Cabinet Members Replaced
On Friday, March 10th, just two days after President Boric’s tax reform program was rejected, he announced the replacement of five of his 24 cabinet ministers. Among others, he replaced his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Public Works, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Science and Sports. This is the second time Boric has initiated a cabinet reshuffle, the first being in September 2022 when the people rejected the proposed new constitution draft. Despite these legal setbacks, Boric has promised to “continue pushing to expand wealth distribution, increase pensions and boost the minimum wage”.
Another Pro-Ukraine Election Win in Estonia
Written by Ash Breedlove
March 12, 2023
Digital voting has dominated Estonia’s most recent general election. The Baltic nation has used “i-voting” in order to increase the use of digital infrastructure. I-voting is made secure by an electronic identity system provided by e-Estonia. The security system involves user ID, a card reader, and PIN codes. Estonia has reportedly had zero cases of i-voter fraud. If one has already cast an electronic vote, they can change that vote by voting in person on election day. In total, 51% of votes were cast through the internet.
As of March 5th, 98% of votes have been counted in Estonia’s parliamentary election. The Reform party, the party of Prime Minster Kaja Kallas, has secured first place in the election. Kallas’ party secured 31.5% of the votes while the far-right EKRE party secured 16.1% of votes in second place. Kallas has continually voiced her support for Ukraine and putting pressure on Russia. The current government of Estonia is and will continue to be pro-Ukraine with the Reform party’s win in this election.
Updates from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey
Written by Bushra Bani-Salman
March 12, 2023
Saudi Arabia and Iran Restore Ties
In Beijing, with China as the mediator, Iran and Saudi Arabia have pledged diplomatic talks in pursuit of restoring ties. This includes reopening their embassies after years of halted diplomacy. The two countries have had a seven-year rift with rising tensions. Saudi leaders are Sunni Muslim, while Iran’s leaders are Shi’a Muslims. The two sects have had great complications in the past, mainly with Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen to suppress the Shi’ite Houthis while Iran has supported the Houthis.
This breaking news has raised concerns for many reasons regionally with Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia and Iran have had opposing views within the region for decades and both struggle for power in regional politics. The US government has stated that they approve of any hopes of de-escalation and diplomacy in the region. Experts have mentioned that this stop in relationship-building may be due to Iran running out of options as it is under severe pressure from internal and external factors.
Turkey’s Presidential Elections
Presidential elections in Turkey are set to take place March 14th. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been president of Turkey since 2014 and this upcoming election may be the end of his leadership. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party has been chosen as Erdoğan’s opposition.
Kılıçdaroğlu is an economist and social-democratic politician. He comes from a Turkish region with a large Kurdish and Alevi minority population and is Alevi himself. His campaign has focused on human rights and democracy, while pointing at the recent earthquakes as a fault of Erdoğan’s governing. He hopes to rally Kurds in the region to support his bid, but this can also increase political tensions from right-wing nationalist Turks that support Erdoğan.
Tunisian President Distracts From His Poor Job Performance
Written by Jesse Moore
March 12, 2023
Tunisia, once the only Arab country considered to have bloomed in the Arab Spring, is quickly wilting, as I’ve previously described. President Kais Saied, a former law professor, performed a coup in 2021 by suspending parliament and assuming executive power in order to ‘save’ the country from the parliament that held ‘real progress’ hostage. Not much has changed since his self-aggrandizing revolution. The country is still plagued by a poor economy and leftover turmoil from the Covid-19 pandemic. Young Tunisians see no future in their country, prompting many of them to make the perilous journey to Europe. Once there, they will often find little hospitality. Right-wing populists spout conspiracy theories about a so-called “Great Replacement”, where black and brown immigrants are ‘reverse-colonizing’ Europe in order to dilute its ‘white’ population. Sometimes this racist conspiracy theory features a nefarious ‘other’ that directs this demographic war.
In his address to Tunisia’s National Security Council last month, President Saied echoed this narrative, claiming that there is a conspiracy to “change the demographic composition of Tunisia” by “settl[ing] irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia.” Saied’s remarks were a pathetic attempt to pin the country’s woes on the ‘other’, a well-worn fascist tactic that may be coming back into fashion. These comments by Tunisia’s president stoked fear about anti-black violence in the country and prompted protests in the capital, Tunis.
What did the ex-professor have to say about his role in stoking racist violence? “But I have sub-Saharan African friends!”
Blinken’s Central Asian Charm Offensive
Written by Allan Millward
March 12, 2023
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was in Kazakhstan last week for a meeting of the C5+1 group, a diplomatic summit that consists of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the United States. All five Central Asian states are sandwiched between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China and are significantly influenced by both. These five states, which Russia formerly ruled as the USSR, have long been viewed as falling under Moscow’s sphere of influence post-independence and are, for the most part, deeply integrated with it militarily, economically, and politically. However, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has rattled relations with none of the five approving of Russia’s actions and all abstaining in a vote to condemn the war. Meanwhile, China has increasingly become a significant part of many of these states’ economies through its well-known Belt and Road Initiative as well as major lending.
Blinken’s meeting comes on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an opportune time for the US, and Blinken made sure to capitalize on it stressing “sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence” in all of his meetings. He reminded his Kazakh hosts that the US was the first state to recognize Kazakhstan in 1991. However, for all the big talk the US has had a history of mixed success in the region. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan did assist the US in its war on terror in Afghanistan, providing logistical support, and Kyrgyzstan even allowed for a US military base to operate within its borders, but these agreements were temporary and no significant shift away from Russia was achieved. If Blinken was hoping to use these Central Asian states’ very real fear of Russian intimidation to win them over to the West, he certainly came up short. This was perhaps best exemplified by Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi who thanked Blinken for the commitment of the US to Kazakhstan’s freedom but reasserted that given “the complex international situation” Kazakhstan “continues a balanced multilateral foreign policy.” The “C5” know that if they are to survive in their precarious position at the geopolitical crossroads of three major powers they have to work with all sides.
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