the brief: issue six


Contemporary struggles with an apartheid history

by Angel Hill

image credit: Jacques Nel

Following the harrowing Phoenix riots, which were part of greater unrest in South Africa over the imprisonment of former president, Jacob Zuma, in July, newfound outrage has been sparked in Durban. The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s largest opposition party, displayed election posters that praised the actions of those who participated in the riots and perpetuated the belief that the violence should be blamed on South Africans of Indian descent. 

The campaign posters read, ‘The ANC called you racists [but] The DA calls you heroes’. The African National Congress responded by calling the posters ‘Shameful and fascist in nature’. 

In his first statement to the public following his incarceration, Zuma urged people to vote for the ANC in the upcoming municipal elections. This was a bold declaration of disdain for DA leader John Steenhuisen’s refusal to apologise for the racially inflammatory posters and for potentially reigniting the ethnic tensions.


Xi Jinping’s call for “reunification” adds to China-Taiwan tension

by Owen Buchan

image credit: Christian Lue

There have been growing tensions between the nations of China and Taiwan. These tensions have always been present since Taiwan’s creation, with China insisting that Taiwan is a part of its territory. The Chinese claim over Taiwan or Chinese Taipei has been reiterated by the current Chinese President Xi Jinping. He argues that a unification of the breakaway province of Taipei can be achieved peacefully but ultimately did not rule out force.

This particular comment from President Xi comes after tensions heightened because China sent a record number of its military jet fighters into Taiwan’s air zone. The Taiwanese government, in response, has instituted it as a sovereign state and that its future lies in the hands of its people. Taiwan’s defence minister has said that tension between China is at its worst in 40 years.

North Korea faces an unprecedented challenge

by Harry Padoan

image credit: Victoria_Borodinova (Pixabay)

As Kim Jong Un celebrated the 76th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea, he made a statement that would severely juxtapose all of the performances, galas and fireworks. This being that the economy is facing a “grim situation”. A combination of several factors are responsible for the nation’s economic woes, with analysts claiming this could be the toughest moment in Kim’s decade in power.

The country’s borders were slammed shut amid the shock of the pandemic, seeing international trade plummet. Additionally, Kim failed to win sanction relief in summits with Donald Trump in recent years – most of these being placed on the country due to its notorious nuclear weapons programme. To add insult to injury, devastating floods have left many at high risk of starvation. Although there is little to suggest relations with the US are healing, an influx of Covid medical supplies suggests some aspects of North Korea’s crisis are being relieved.


Money makes the world go round: Truss’ marrying of trade and foreign policy

by Luke Jones

image credit: Number 10 (Flickr)

Liz Truss, a rising star in the Conservative Party, has taken the top job in the Foreign Office and brings her zeal for trade with her. In her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference last week she mentioned trade a dozen times. This should not come as a surprise given Truss’ well known previous job as International Trade Secretary. 

As the UK’s top diplomat, this enthusiasm may affect how the country deals on the international stage in real terms. For example, a sustained focus on bilateral and regional trade agreements, perhaps with countries not previously under the UK’s trading remit, can be expected. Case in point, some reputable sources have even hinted, albeit tentatively, at a possible merger of the Foreign Office and Department for International Trade.

The cover up of clerical corruption

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Debby Hudson

The chilling revelations of church corruption have floated to the surface as the details of clerical abuse are laid bare. Since 1950, 216,000 children, mostly boys, were victims of sexual abuse within the French Catholic Church. When the report is rephrased to encompass those abused by laymen, such as teachers in Catholic schools, this figure stretches to 330,000.

The prospect of compensation is currently being mooted and Church reform is on the agenda. The contradiction this poses to Christian principles makes it an especially damning day for the church. As over half of the cases were before 1970, most are too outdated for prosecution. Although this brings shame to the spiritual status of the church, little light is shone onto justice for its victims.


Mexico and USA hold talks to strengthen fight against cartels

by Josh Chapman

image credit: ProtoplasmaKid (Wikimedia Commons)

On 8 October the USA sent three top officials to a one-day conference in Mexico to discuss collaboration in the fight against drug cartels.  The delegation met Mexican President Lopez Obrador and other Mexican ministers to discuss a more ‘holistic’ method to tackle the problem. Lopez Obrador has called the current agreement, laid out in the Medira Initiative, a ‘relic of the past’. This agreement has seen the US give over $3 billion to Mexico since 2008. 300,000 people have died from cartel-related violence in that time. 

These talks, although short, are important in rebuilding relations between the two countries. Relations soured during Trump’s presidency, especially after a former Mexican defence minister was arrested on drug trafficking charges last year. The conference was more a symbol of improving relations rather than a decisive point in the war on drugs.


Is there hope for Australia-France relations?

by Connor Crout

image credit: Stasyan117 (Wikimedia Commons)

In September, Australia ended a $65 billion deal with France in order to form the Aukus security pact with the USA and UK. France felt this was a ‘stab in the back’ and recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington DC in protest. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron has not answered any of his calls, and the Australian trade minister has received the same treatment from his French counterpart.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that his country wants to start afresh with Australian relations, and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne has said that her country values the relationship with France. Time will tell whether these sentiments, along with the minimum $288 million exit fee Canberra is expected to pay for breaking the deal, will be enough to heal Australia-France relations.


Anti-Bolsonaro protests continue in Brazil

by Iwan Roberts

image credit: Carolina Antunes (Flickr)

Discontent against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has reached new heights in recent weeks as protests erupted in cities all over the country, calling for his impeachment. Bolsonaro has been a divisive figure since he was elected in 2018, having raised his public profile with his support of former President Rousseff’s 2016 impeachment. His time in office has seen around 600,000 Brazilians die of Covid, a tragedy which constitutes the main driving force of the protests.

Left-wing parties such as the former governing Workers’ Party have embraced the movement, hoping to capitalise on anger over inflation, unemployment, rising food and fuel prices as well as Bolsonaro’s ongoing response to the pandemic. With polls indicating a 58 percent disapproval rating for Bolsonaro and his popular left-wing rival, former President Lula, waiting in the wings, Brazilians will anxiously anticipate next year’s looming elections.

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