2014: year in review (by countries, part 3)

2014

 

This is the last article from the series reviewing events that have taken place across different countries this year. Now the last day in 2014, my only expectation towards 2015 is a better year ahead, albeit some difficulties, and some challenges, accumulated from past mistakes, will continue to befall us.

As I forgot to include Hong Kong and Mexico in the first two parts, I’ll just put them here.

 

Hong Kong – if this semi-autonomous region of 7.2 million people used to be known rather for dim sum, skyscrapers, action films, and Jackie Chan, now Hong Kong filled international headlines in 2014 with ‘protests’ being the most popular keyword. Triggered largely in part due to the latest decision by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee in having to screen out candidates in the upcoming 2017 Chief Executive election, which would be the first direct election in Hong Kong, this marked what had been more than two decades of impatience Hong Kong public has been faced in gaining universal suffrage. While the city has achieved monumental economic success since 1970s, the most crucial issues that have never been addressed are the worsening social inequality (Hong Kong is ranked the worst among developed regions’ Gini index, now reaching a staggering level of almost 0.56), astronomical home prices which most people can hardly afford, increasing living costs with low social safety nets, as well as erosion of freedom of expression, by which Hong Kong’s rank, according to Freedom House, has fallen drastically from among the top 15 in 2004 to now 61 a decade after.

But Hong Kong also inspired the world what ‘civil disobedience’ truly meant. Despite several scuffles (mostly infiltrated by certain elements), no buildings were damaged (except the Legislative Councils headquarters’ front window), no cars were burned, and life goes on fairly normal on most parts of the city. People helped each other, students continued to do their homework and studied at night, some set up medical clinics, and others even assisted in trash collection and recycling activities. There is hardly any place doing a civilized protest as Hong Kong has shown.

Mexico – this country of 115 million has long been faced with a massive drug war, having seen more than 100,000 people killed by both security forces and similarly heavily-armed drug cartels, but the forced disappearances of 43 university students, and their subsequent killings, marks the climax of this war, with millions of civilians coming out to the streets to protest both the government and drug lords, who have remained somewhat hypocritical and vicious in this matter. The murder started with student protests in Iguala, by which local police responded with mass suppression, and the subsequent kidnapping of 43 students. Nonetheless, having handed them down to drug lords instead to prosecutor’s office, and having these people brutally murdered, mutilated, and their body remains completely burned, this became what triggered the people to really show their anger. Such tragedy deals another further blow to the country’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who has long been criticized for being hypocritical and not doing enough to solve many of Mexico’s crucial issues.

Pakistan – three gargantuan events have shaken this country throughout the year. Firstly, there’s this mass protest known as Azadi March, by which millions of people again went to the streets to demand an end to the country’s first democratically-elected government, led by Nawaz Sharif. Nonetheless, there remained suspicions that these protests were actually organized by certain elements with close ties to intelligence and military forces, notoriously known to have been partially infiltrated by several Taliban movements. The military itself had previously been in charge of the country’s leadership for decades, the climax of which was the ascendancy of Pervez Musharraf into the power, ending in 2008 after mass protests led by civilians. This march, for the first time, becomes a major test to Sharif’s government to which extent he could balance fragile relations between the authority, critically needing the support of security forces, and the military themselves.

Another one was Nobel Peace Prize jointly awarded to both Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, both hailing from cognate countries long involved in decades-old conflicts over numerous issues: Pakistan and India. Both of them were actively involved in advocacy towards children’s rights and education, and had faced formidable obstacles in their respective home countries. No matter how often the two nations clash, it was hoped the shared visions of Malala and Kailash could inspire both people to appreciate each other much better.

But the last one remains what becomes the most tragic closing event for the country’s 2014. Taliban, known for always targeting military forces and intelligence services, this time targeted a school attended by innocent kids. More than 150 people, mostly students, were brutally murdered by the ambush led by Taliban forces in Peshawar, leading to huge civilian protests, and a harsh crackdown by Pakistani government into the militants. While it is deplorable to see how US drones continuously invade civilian places – further encouraging Taliban to conduct more attacks, robbing the lives of innocent kids, dreaming hard of a better future, is another useless eye for an eye.

Qatar – other than Al Jazeera as its global media outlet, the country has faced another international scrutiny in regard to alleged abuse of migrant workers in this oil-and-gas-rich tiny Gulf state. With population of migrant workers 1.7 million strong, or 75% of its whole population, how the country handles these people remains a question, especially as Qatar has been selected for 2022 World Cup, with a fantastically planned expenditure of 220 billion US$. It is estimated that among 1.7 million foreign workers residing in this country, majority of them do not have enough social protection from the respective government. What those people will experience in the years to come until 2022 remains a huge stake for Qatar’s credibility, nonetheless.

Russia – first, the world was surprised by how ‘unusual’ Winter Olympics had been, as shown by how the 50-billion-dollar project in Sochi turned into a completely gargantuan white elephant. Many stadiums ended up in decrepitude, hotels were largely unfurnished, and the city turned up pretty merely throughout the Olympics’ season, only to subsequently end up neglected much of the time afterwards.

After Sochi, Kremlin once again shook the world with its subsequent annexation of Crimea Peninsula in Ukraine, a Russian-dominant territory Soviet Union once awarded to the latter back in 1950s. As though not done with Crimea, Moscow continued to silently support pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine, particularly in Donetsk, once one of the country’s most important industrial cities, now turning into a war zone. More than 4,000 people had been killed in the conflict lasting more than 9 months, and it is not expected the conflict will end anytime soon.

Sanctions and a drastic drop in oil prices themselves, again, give this country a hard slap. Ruble values have sharply declined by more than 70%, the worst performing this year, excluding the estimated capital flight at more than 130 billion US$ this year. Foreign exchange reserves, meanwhile, have evaporated almost 50%, leaving the country with less than 200 billion US$ to anticipate the crisis. Worst, Russia’s oil revenues will drop between 90 and 140 billion US$ this year, making 2014 the worst year for this country of 142 million after 1998.

Next year, former Soviet states like Estonia and Kazakhstan will have to be very careful of their giant neighbor.

South Korea – the sinking of MV Sewol became an international spotlight. Over 300 high school students out of 460 people on board a passenger ship heading to Jeju Island were killed as the ship perished at sea, and the reason was what gave the public enough outrage to be expressed at the national government, currently led by President Park Geun-hye: the ship itself has exceeded its sailing age, and there is certain extent of negligence by ship crew when the accident happened. This accident prompted a suicide case by the students’ vice principal, resignation by prime minister, and the subsequent disbandment of the country’s transport safety commission. Also, what was highlighted here is the continued issue of corruption, as well as collusion of power between government and major corporations controlling a large share of the country’s economy.

Another controversial issue is the widespread violence experienced by many servicemen during military service, as recently illustrated by the mass shooting in a military base by one of them.

Sudan / South Sudan – the world’s newest sovereign state faces a devastating civil conflict that had killed thousands of people since last year, driven largely in part by former vice president Riek Machar’s rebellion attempt against the government currently led by Salva Kiir. Millions of people were internally displaced, and governmental functions were mostly paralyzed. Nonetheless, despite infrequent coverage of these two countries, they remain widely discussed within international relations discourse given the influence of the soon-to-be superpower: China. Having staked out many oil and gas possessions in both countries, it is highly important for Beijing to create an uneasy counterpoise and political compromise between them, while also ensuring internal security in South Sudan to not interfere with their extraction activities. This country, in many geopolitical estimates, will become a ‘knot’ in determining of how Chinese foreign policy will transform in the years to come.

Syria – the country’s civil war, which has killed over 200,000 people within 3 years, doesn’t show any signs of abating. The nation remains largely divided, with Bashar al-Assad’s government still having a stronghold in the largely Southern part, while much of the North has fallen to both various rebel groups (often clashing against each other and against the government) and ISIS. Thousands of civilians, former government troops, and various tribal fighters have fallen victim to the savagery displayed by the Islamic State, and with the reluctance of both Assad’s government and rebelling coalitions to dialogue, despite an attempted peace talk brokered by Russia, it is expected that the country’s civil war will not subside anytime soon, even in two or three years to come.

Taiwan – 2014 was particularly not a really good year for this island country. In March, most of the central government was paralyzed by the largest mass protest ever organized since the 1990 democratization, with hundred thousands of students occupying Legislative Yuan’s headquarters in Taipei for nearly one month. This protest was largely triggered by China-Taiwan trade agreements, which many feared would give Beijing a stronger economic leverage towards the country’s survival. With bilateral trade between both countries surpassing 170 billion US$, or 30% of Taiwan’s overall annual volume, and Taiwan’s largest corporations benefiting the most, much of the public is concerned how this free trade policy will determine the country’s long-term existence.

Two more disasters befell Taiwan, with a plane crash in Penghu Islands, and a massive gas pipe explosion in Kaohsiung, devastating several parts and many buildings across the city. Ma Ying-jeou’s administration faced another major blow with the ruling party Kuomintang’s massive defeat in this year’s municipal elections, driven largely in part by public’s increasing dissatisfaction towards the government.

By 2016, with a presidential election already scheduled, this is going to determine the future direction Taiwan will go towards.

Thailand – for the umpteenth time (after nearly 20 times of coup d’etat since early 1930s), Thailand effectively becomes a military junta again, a consequence of lengthy political fights between kingdom-supported military, urban middle-class, and farmers plus rural villagers, who mostly support Thaksin Shinawatra and his associates. To make a long story short, the military junta will not end anytime soon, unless steps have been taken to reconcile both the royalists and the villagers (which so far hasn’t seen any concrete results).

Turkey – When Russia has Putin, Turkey has Erdogan. The mass protests originating from Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which later spread into the entire country last year, failed to overthrow Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government; instead, it gave him further legitimacy to alter the current state of Turkey. Beforehand a three-term prime minister, previously hailed for his successful economic transformation of this country of 70 million, Erdogan has been increasingly faced with scandals involving his inner circles, and his increasingly conservative, and oftentimes iconoclastic, views about Islam and the world. This year, Erdogan is sworn in as the country’s president, eliminating the position of ‘prime minister’. Now being head of state and head of government, with numerous cash-draining, oftentimes ‘white elephant’ projects across the country (including a brand-new one-billion-dollar presidential palace in Ankara), the leader is getting more unpopular across much of the country’s youth.

Ukraine – situated in between European Union and Russia, Ukraine remains in difficult position. Much of the nation was fractured with mass protests taking place from November 2013, which ended with a street battle in February this year. While much of the country demand a complete integration with EU, many important elements within the country also want closer ties with Russia, enticed by Soviet-era stability. The protests, later known as Euromaidan, ended up with a bloodshed killing more than 100 people, and the subsequent escape of Viktor Yanukovich, the country’s deposed pro-Russia president.

Nonetheless, the protests ended up exacerbating the current situation in Ukraine, with many of the pro-Russian civilians taking up weapons and declaring their own republics across much of the Eastern part. The country itself was also faced with another threat on its Western part: Moldova, its neighboring state, served as a Moscow-supported bulwark against Kiev. Crimea and Donetsk has been taken, much of the country remains under war, and worse still, an airliner was bombed.

The current government led by Petro Poroshenko (known as the Ukraine’s Chocolate King) has also been faced with internal infighting within the parliament, giving this conflict an uncertainty when it will end.

United Kingdom –  It’s good that Scotland didn’t split up from the country; otherwise UK would have to rename itself, change its flag, and worse, other constituent countries like Wales and Northern Ireland will possibly follow the same way had Scotland chosen to declare independence.

United States – the world’s largest superpower faces its own largest racial tensions since 1960s, with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, prompting large-scale protests nationwide, and subsequent acts of rioting and looting in several towns across the States. A few other African-Americans were also shot down by police, but this also fuels debates whether the police are getting increasingly militarized, or the Blacks are really trying to attack them.

The Republicans’ success in taking control of US Senate gives another blow for Obama’s administration, especially after the last year’s government shutdown in regard to endless debates about Obamacare and other proposed policies that didn’t get passed. With two years left for President Obama, there won’t be much left for him to accomplish given the latter’s strong control of the Senate.

Nonetheless, there’s good news aside: economic recovery has shown its outcome, now at a level of 4%, the highest since Clinton’s era. With Europe still at its teeters, China facing a gradual slowdown, and Japan entering recession, US is now driving the world’s economic growth again for the first time (albeit not so in long term, as long as economic reforms are not activated).

Venezuela – with Hugo Chavez passing away, people once put another populist hope on his former vice president, Nicolas Maduro. It turned out to be wrong: economy remains at a dismal level, and with oil prices further dropping, revenues are increasingly small. Despite Venezuela’s status as currently the world’s largest holder of oil reserves, much of the population remains chronically poor, crime rate remains among the world’s highest (nearly similar to that of war-ravaged nations), and state-organized violence remains dominant in suppressing freedom of expression. Worse, with Maduro’s limited capability in handling the country’s issues, all these invoked massive anger from much of the populace. The country experienced mass protests when hundred thousands of people went to the streets, demanding his resignation.

More than 40 people were shot to death, including former pageants (pageants are the most popular figures in Venezuela, sometimes comparable to government leaders), and Maduro remains in power.

 

 

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Starting from next year, 2015, I will not frequently update this blog anymore, given that there are several things I have had commitment to do so, but this doesn’t spell an end to it (even though there were quite some moments I was considering to simply terminate this blog). It’s just that there are some adjustments I have to do with my schedule, so I hope you, readers, can understand that. I wish you all the best luck ahead, and I’ll see you in 2015.

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If you still remember: how to capture a robber without killing everyone

 

Almost nobody has ever talked about Hsieh Kuo-cheng other than Ig Nobel Prize enthusiasts and extremists; if you do still remember, if you do still very patiently browse every single bizarre, absurd, but oftentimes scientifically provoking article posted in Marc Abraham’s Improbable Research blog, you can refer to this 2007 article about the Taiwanese inventor who built up a special win-win device which neither kills the victims nor the perpetrators themselves.

NB: Even Hsieh Kuo-cheng’s life has been marked with mysteries. Briefly after his invention, he disappeared somewhere else, presumed to be either dead or killed by some syndicate displeased with his product, only to secretly appear in Ig Nobel Prize ceremony held in the same year, with few people having known the reasons he did so. Yeah, that’s pretty a mystery.

Anyway, the video above is released in 2007, so this post must have been outdated itself for 7 years.

Freedom, Fried

taiwan media

 

Another article about Taiwan, this time focusing on the country’s increasingly sensationalist, ridiculous, and no-holds-barred media industry.

Read the full story on Tea Leaf Nation.

 

Excerpt:

 

Andy Hong, a reporter for Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily and a journalist in Taiwan for 20 years, said that Taiwan’s post-martial law media did not originally run “bloody” or “gossipy” news stories, adding that “newspapers were like those published in the early days of China’s Republican era,” after China had toppled two millennia of imperial rule. Instead, Hong said, they thought they had an obligation “to promote cultural literacy.” Hong’s colleague Yongfu Lin, who became a reporter with the China Times in 1985 and is now deputy director of Want Daily’s cross-strait news division, said that in the years after martial law, “news reports were very diverse,” and the public had “fewer misgivings about the media,” partly because journalists were for the first time targeting political figures who were “once considered off-limits.” But Hong claimed things changed around 2003, when Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, a web site and broadsheet with a tabloid flair known for publishing color photos of grisly crime scenes and scantily-clad women, entered Taiwan and “immediately attracted readers.”

China, we fear you.

taiwanprotestsign_afpgetty

 

A Taiwanese attorney explains in brief summary how the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China will increasingly put the former in political jeopardy – an increasing dependence on the latter that, many fear, will eventually end up with a ‘complete Chinese reunification’.

The original essay is available on the attorney’s Facebook account (only in Mandarin). The translation itself, meanwhile, can also be read on Tea Leaf Nation. And here I’ve copied the essay’s translation below.

 

China, We Fear You

Flash point: who’s unsafe without US?

“Four more years…”

We, in the long run, have realized that even the so-called ‘police of the world’, the epitome of democracy, the embodiment of capitalism, and the epicenter of geopolitical chess games itself is now at its own vulnerability. Having been severely laden by its soaring debts, which amount to 15 trillion US$ (nearly the size of its own GDP), socially burdened by its skyrocketing number of unemployment rates showing no signs of abating, and, politically coining, ‘menaced’ by the unexpected rise of new global powers, particularly China, United States must realize that its days at the paramount seat of global superpower are being counted. The harbinger, however, in case United States did really collapse – given its seemingly incurable debt level – would not only inflict suffering to its own people, but also disproportionately threaten the existence of other nations whose companionship has so long been bonded that even a slight loose may translate as ‘imminent danger’. As in my own analysis, here are the countries whose dependence on ‘Big Brother’ has reached symbiotic level, without which, may be at stake.

South Korea

We can’t deny all the wonders the country has had – advanced economy, well-educated human resources, excellent innovation in science. South Korea also intensively allocates nearly 31 billion US$ this year (compared to its 1-trillion-dollar GDP, the spending is merely a minutiae) in military expenditure, but even such investment may do seem insignificant; its nuclear-armed hermit-minded long-separated brother, North Korea, has never shown any signs of abating in disarmaming all the missiles they have aimed to South Korea’s, Japan’s, and America’s major cities altogether. That, pretty much, could also explain why United States maintains its commitment in dispatching nearly 30,000 troops across the demilitarized zones (DMZ). Just wondering if the all-beloved Kim Jong Un may anytime prepare for nuclear apocalypse.

Japan

Two factors explain why Japan is on the list: its major cities are primary targets of North Korea’s nuclear-powered vengeance (one had even flown above the air of Tokyo, but then fell into the Pacific ocean), and, last but not least, its own most brutally treated victim of its own aggression, China. Japanese government has repeatedly voiced out their concern regarding China’s burgeoning military capability. And they are particularly worried by territorial disputes on a group of uninhabited islands known in Japan as Senkaku (and in Chinese as Diaoyutai) which have nearly escalated into open warfare when both patrol ships confronted each other vis-à-vis. The main reason behind the dispute: it’s not really the islands they are fighting claims for, but it’s the need-blind substance lying kilometers down the seas within: a huge omnipotentiality of oil and gas. Until recently, United States has preferred ‘neutrality’ upon the issue, but the military has also frequently conducted joint drilling in anticipating possible ‘invasions’, referring to Chinese military.

Taiwan

What makes Taiwan easily exterminable? Topography accounts. Occupying an island approximately ‘merely’ 36,000 sq km big, Taiwan is even only 1/44 big compared to the vastness of Xinjiang, China’s largest province. Its 25-million population is absolutely incomparable to China’s 1.35-billion strong as well. The danger is further extended as Chinese military still places nearly 1000 missiles in Fujian province, all of which are aimed to Taiwan’s major cities. The worries, however, are eased as Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s current president of Chinese-friendly Kuomintang party, advocates for a more ‘peaceful approach’ on the Communist leaders. Thanks to his leadership, both bilateral relationships, particularly in trading and investment, have strengthened. The current fear for Taiwanese, on the other hand, remains on how Taiwan, now in global-stage status quo, will stand a choice when Ma’s no longer permitted to participate in 2016 election. (now he’s serving his second period, the maximum extent granted by the Constitution)

Philippines

The issue regarding Scarborough Shoals (known to be oil-rich) in South China Seas has further deteriorated the country’s volatile relationship with China. It escalated as several Philippines’ patrol ships confronted vis-à-vis with Chinese marine vessels. In addition, the joint China-ASEAN diplomacy efforts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, resulted in ultimate deadlock, particularly endorsed by the fact that Cambodia, the country in charge of managing ASEAN this year, got too ‘intimate’ with Chinese sides. Albeit having signed mutual defense agreements with the United States, Philippines might also be on the harbinger, in case America’s global position wanes.

India

The country encounters perils, unfortunately, from two nuclear-armed neighbors at the same time: China and Pakistan. Regarding China (and it’s pretty much a minor issue), India has had problems yet to be solved: the ownership of several  territorial remains in northern India remain disputed, ever since the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and Dalai Lama (he and his followers gain exile in Dharamsala, a small border-town). Those of Pakistan, however, are of more sensitive ones, and any temerarious diplomatic clashes could spark a deadly war within both nations. Kashmir, ideological differences, terrorism, and water resources are four pivotal ‘thorns’ that continue to ravage both to date.

Pakistan

Pakistan, now a nation of 180 million, suffers from internal strife, tribal rivalries and Islamic extremism, particularly from Afghanistan. US military, despite frequent drone attacks on Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlines which often erroneously target civilians, most of whom women and children, has had little success in combating terrorism in a nation so badly damaged by the threats of Al-Qaeda and Taliban posed in to the daily life. This further worsens as US-Pakistan relationship is at its lowest within decades, ever since Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted fugitive, was killed in Abbottabad, unknowingly, by Navy SEAL troops. Last but not least, the doctrines of Islamic extremism have gradually got their entries into Pakistani military, as well.

Afghanistan

The future of this country remains bleak, even as US-led NATO troops are scheduled for complete withdrawal as of 2014. After a little more than a decade of military operations, US military has not consequently succeeded in eliminating, or, if anything, minimized, terrorism in the country. Instead, numerous civilians fall prey to the US military’s much-denounced ‘search-and-destroy’ war strategy. No matter how disliked the army is, they are fully responsible for maintaining the uneasy equilibrium in the country as they are the ones firstly involved in the ‘game’.

Israel and Palestine

Israel, America’s closest ally, faces dangers not because of the external threats they possess, but rather its own mischiefs. Israel becomes increasingly internationally isolated, thanks to its ruthless occupation of both West Bank and Gaza Strip (nearly half of the children in Palestine even suffer from malnutrition, resulting from a very strict food-and-water-rationing policy imposed by Israeli government). Israel even pulls the gauntlet against a much larger Iran, a nation whom the government ‘rationally’ believes is building atomic bombs, and can be exterminated within no time. Israel is also becoming increasingly unsafe, as US-Israel relationship has reached its lowest point in history regarding Jerusalem’s division and Israel’s plan to invade Iran (and Obama has even never visited Israel once in his presidential period). The test does not cease here; Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-line Zionist, is ordering approximately 75 thousand troops to ‘surround’ the entire Gaza Strip (also a political stratagem to regain confidence among Israeli public before the upcoming election), adjacent to a repetition of 2006 and 2008 large-scale offensives which killed approximately 1000 lives.

But putting the blame entirely on Israel may be a biased option. Palestine, on the other hand, is ruled by two factions frequently involved in clashes within: the hard-line, jihadist Hamas, and the slightly-moderate-yet-corrupt Fatah. Hamas occupies Gaza Strip, and often provokes military attacks by continuously launching rockets at Israeli main cities. Fatah, meanwhile, only holds account for West Bank, an area increasingly occupied by Israeli authorities aspiring for more housing construction for the Jews. Hamas, notoriously reported, has had intense cooperation with Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and Iran altogether. No doubt, brainwashed by ultra-radical doctrines and rhetoric, many of the Hamas fighters frequently conduct what they call ‘an eye for an eye’ for Israelis having taken away their millennium-old homeland.

In the short term, and even in the long term, the two-state solution proposed by United Nations would seem beyond rocket science. Unless moderate governments (one that neutralizes its pro-Zionist agenda, and one that reduces its hardcore-Islamist aims) are installed in both countries, peace won’t prevail, even for the upcoming decades.

Poland

Poland is a staunch ally of United States (it is even now a NATO member) having bittersweet relationship (most of which is bitter) with Russia, spurning deep into historical contexts. Poland was the first casualty of Second World War, having witnessed savage battles between NAZI and Soviet troops, killing more than 3 million Poles. Poland was also forcefully ‘integrated’ into Soviet Union, and faced severe restriction on freedom until 1991. Until now, such sentiment is still instilled by majority of the citizens in sense of anger, wrath, mismashed with a slight mixture of bigot. They widely believed that the 2010 airplane, which killed all the cabinet members of the government (including President and Prime Minister), had been perfectly ‘orchestrated’ by Kremlin. Excluding NATO’s failed plan to install a missile shield, which highlighted Poland’s full suspicion on its own ‘ex-stepmother’.

Liberia

The ongoing relationship it has with United States surpasses political context; it has been more of a historical one, given that the dominant minority ruling the state is African-Americans (whose ancestors were the liberated slaves who returned to the country by 1830). Ever since the end of Liberian Civil War, which severely ravaged the country in all aspects (the GDP-to-debt ratio had soared to 800%) and also by the time Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf swept in the presidency by 2003, both countries’ relation had been more imminently close than ever. Since 2006, foreign direct investment has peaked to a staggering rate of 16 billion US$, most of which is conducted by American businesses involved in iron ore, palm oil, and oil & gas sectors. The threat of US’ collapse, though sounds more phantasmagorical than it does to reality, may menace the existence of Liberia as a nation, given its already dependence on American support to help sustain the country.

Most likely and most unlikely: China.

Neither friends nor foes, neither close partners nor bitter rivals, both countries have struggled to maintain a fragile relationship they have had spanning four decades. China slams the United States for issues concerning Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, and South China Seas, while the latter lambasts the former for its poor human-rights track record, unfair and illicit economic and trading practices, copyright, currency manipulation, and virtually nonexistent protection of labors. But as the brawl goes by, so does the interdependence: until now, China entrusts over 1 trillion US$ (almost 30% of its foreign exchange reserves) on US Treasury Bond, while United States outsources most of its workforces there under the grounds of ‘cheap wages’.

Only in the context of ‘foreign policies’, this may have been largely a headache for Obama, four more years.