On June 16, CNN will be premiering "Girl Rising," which documents extraordinary girls and how education can change the world.
But what are some of the biggest challenges facing women and girls across the globe today? Which countries might surprise us, and how much progress have different regions of the world made? Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch, will be taking GPS readers’ questions.
Please leave your questions for her in the comments section below.
By Fareed Zakaria
In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat.
China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such.
By Paul Haenle, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Beijing has long seen itself as the arbitrator between Pyongyang and Washington in addressing North Korean nuclear proliferation. China’s priorities have been peace and stability, denuclearization, and nonproliferation, in that order. So China pushed to preserve the status quo on the Korean Peninsula.
But this is changing – North Korea is now China’s problem. This means that President Obama should take full advantage of his upcoming meeting with President Xi Jinping in California to offer help in finding a way to compel Pyongyang to alter its behavior.
Of course, U.S. officials have tried in the past to demonstrate that the regional stability Beijing desires will only be achieved with denuclearization and that China has as much – if not more – at stake in ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, U.S. urgings that North Korea is a common problem and that joint solutions are required have fallen on deaf ears.
Leading China scholar Minxin Pei answers readers' questions on China's middle class, relations with the United States and whether the country will ever become truly democratic.
The United States has often subscribed to the notion that it is an "exceptional" nation, notes “Sam A” on Facebook. “As such its foreign policy could not be compared to the realpolitik of the old world. Similarly, China has also seen itself as ‘exceptional’ with an ancient foreign policy based on the Under Heaven system. To what degree are these world views similar?”
This isn’t an easy question. While it’s conventional wisdom to claim that the U.S. considers itself exceptional, American foreign policymakers don’t allow the notion of American exceptionalism to cloud their judgments. In fact, American foreign policy is, by and large, realpolitik. The idea of “Chinese exceptionalism” is relatively new, and is often associated with China’s economic development model since the late 1970s. The so-called “under heaven system” is no more than an academic concept promoted by China’s international relations theorists eager to develop a theory that can rival the classic theory of realism. This concept may have some influence in academic circles in China, but Chinese foreign policymakers, consummate practitioners of realpolitik, have not embraced it.
If we have to compare these two world views, they are fundamentally different. There is an irony about American exceptionalism. While Americans may think of themselves as exceptional (in terms of their historical experience, freedom, and democracy), they at the same time strongly believe their values are universal. By comparison, to the extent there is something called Chinese exceptionalism, its advocates don’t believe the idea embodies any universal values.
By Charles Dunne, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Charles Dunne is the director Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. The views expressed are his own.
Let’s imagine a world in which Bashar al-Assad wins a military victory, remains in power, and defies the world to deal with him. Because, unfortunately, it appears to be an all too plausible scenario.
An influx of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, and support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has intensified fighting along the strategic corridor from Qusayr to Damascus. Reported use of chemical weapons, most probably by the Syrian government, has crossed a red line that the U.S. government has ignored, and thus sent a clear and discouraging message to the opposition. Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah, for his part, said in a May 26 television address that Hezbollah would beat down al-Assad's opponents and stay in Syria as long as it needed to do it. “We will continue this road until the end, we will take the responsibility and we will make all the sacrifices,” Nasrallah said. “We will be victorious.”
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By Global Public Square staff
We have been thinking about an idea in the opinion pages of the New York Times to tackle one of the great challenges of our times: cutting carbon emissions to slow down climate change. It would result in the single largest reduction of CO2 emissions globally of any feasible idea out there. But there are a couple of hitches. Let's explain.
Here's the idea: it's time to help China master fracking safely.
By now it's clear that fracking (the process of extracting shale gas) has dramatically lowered America's CO2 emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2006, a fifth of our electricity came from natural gas, while almost 50 percent came from coal. By 2012, natural gas had increased its share to 30 percent of our electricity. Coal's share dropped to 37 percent. The change was because of fracking: over that same period, shale gas production grew 800 percent.
By Andrew Billo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew Billo is assistant director Policy Programs at the Asia Society's New York headquarters. The views expressed are his own.
Ten days ago, I travelled to Ly Son Island, a volcanic atoll thirty kilometers off Vietnam’s central coast. I wasn’t there for the island's famous garlic and seafood, but rather as a participant on a Vietnamese government-sponsored trip to see the island from which the country claims Nguyen lords in the late 16th century launched exploratory trips to the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos.
But if I had taken a similar tour to China’s southern Hainan Island, the information I received would have been much different. China claims it took possession of the Paracels as far back as the Han Dynasty in 110 AD. Whether Chinese or Vietnamese ancestors occupied those islands first is now a question at the center of the two countries’ stormy territorial dispute, and shows both the difficulty – and necessity – for both countries to find resolutions grounded in contemporary realities.
Just this week, China promised to look for peaceful solutions to territorial disputes at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but much of the world increasingly views China's efforts to claim the South China Sea as belligerent and bullying. If its neighbors were persuaded by the country's aspirations for “a peaceful rise” in the last decade, their trust is quickly fading.
Who is Italy’s new prime minister? A fight broke out in which country’s national assembly this week? Which country has the world’s third largest population?
Take our weekly quiz to find out.
By Fareed Zakaria
At least 14 people were killed with guns a day before the U.S. Senate failed to pass a single new gun control amendment, suggests a gun deaths database on Slate.
“Slate and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths are collecting data for our crowdsourced interactive,” the site notes. “This data is necessarily incomplete. But the more people who are paying attention, the better the data will be.”
For every job created in the high-tech sector, another 4.3 jobs emerge over time in the local economy, The Economist says, citing a report by advocacy group Engine. “
“That is more than three times the local ‘multiplier’ for manufacturing jobs…A few years ago no one earned a living as a mobile-app developer. Now they are everywhere. It is not just full-time workers who benefit: firms such as oDesk, a Silicon Valley outfit founded by two Greeks, are nurturing an online freelance economy that is in its infancy. Last year Americans using oDesk’s platform found over 2m hours of freelance work. Given all this, it is worrying that the proportion of start-ups in Silicon Valley founded by immigrants has fallen from 52 percent to 44 percent since 2005.”
By Fareed Zakaria
Thatcher’s ideas resonated because they were an effective antidote to the problems of the times. In the 1970s, the Western world staggered under the weight of oil shocks, rising wages, rocketing inflation, slowing productivity and growth, labor unrest, high taxesand sclerotic state-owned companies. These are not the problems we face now.
Today, American and European workers struggle to keep up their wages as technology and globalization push them down. Western economies face global competition, with other countries building impressive infrastructure and expanding education and worker training. They face a two-track economy where capital does well but labor does not, where college graduates thrive but those without strong skills fall behind and where inequality is rising not just in outcomes but also in opportunities.
By Gabriel Kohan and Mark Donig, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gabriel Kohan and Mark Donig are Middle East policy analysts whose work has appeared in CNN, Foreign Policy, Forbes, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed in this piece are their own.
When U.S. President Barack Obama told a packed Jerusalem Convention Center on Thursday evening that “As a politician, I can promise…political leaders will never take risks unless people push them to take some risks,” it became clear for all to see that the president had not come primarily to “reset” ties with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as some pundits had claimed, but rather to connect with the Israeli people. By ensuring the Israeli public that America would always have Israel’s back on issues of shared security such as Iranian prevention, while also pushing for peace with the Palestinians, the early assessment is that President Obama used his bully pulpit abroad effectively. In so doing, he won the trust of a skeptical Israeli public necessary for the United States to advance its foreign policy goals in the Middle East.
President Obama embarked on this “reset” by “convinc[ing] most Israelis that he has a real feel for their national narrative,” argued Ehud Ya’ari, a senior Israeli journalist and political commentator for Israel’s Channel 2 news. In contrast to his speech to Egyptian youths in 2009 (in which some argued the president legitimized Israel’s existence only through the prism of the Holocaust), the president recognized Judaism’s 3,000 years historical roots in the land of Israel through both his speeches and through his deeply symbolic visits to the tomb of Zionist pioneer Theodor Herzl and to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Equally critically, President Obama reaffirmed in his Thursday speech – in his own words and directly to the Israeli people – his commitment to ensuring Israel’s security, speaking of the “unbreakable” nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and promising his audience that “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
By Fareed Zakaria
Along with several others, I have argued that countries with strong traditions of the rule of law tend to develop a democratic culture that also protects individual rights. In the West, for example, legal protections for life, liberty and property developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only much later came universal adult suffrage. Liberty preceded democracy, not the other way around. What distinguishes the U.S. is not how democratic it is but rather how undemocratic it is, with an unelected Supreme Court, a Senate that is one of the two least representative upper legislative bodies in the world and a Constitution and Bill of Rights that expressly limit the power of a democratically elected government.
Poor developing countries should place an even greater weight on the rule of law. It’s crucial that before the first elections, before politicians gain enormous legitimacy through the polls, a system be put in place that limits governmental power and protects individual liberty and the rights of minorities.