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International Political Economy

The Indian Government’s initial response to Covid-19—a stringent nationwide lockdown which commenced with an intimation period of only “four hours”—was hailed by the World Health Organisation as “timely and tough.” However, this international acclaim overlooked the disastrous result of the rushed lockdown on India’s migrant workforce. For them, the restrictions imposed by the lockdown has endangered their access to healthcare, housing, food and social security, which has further pushed their lives in precarity. Immediate action is needed from the Central Government to tend to their current needs and provide them with long-term economic stability. Statistics of Migrant Labour in India  As per the census of 2011, India has approximately 453.6 million internal migrants. From this, the migrant workforce is estimated to be around 100 million. The Economic Survey of 2017 estimated …

While Covid-19 has spurred debate about the need to elevate public health as a security concern, the securitisation of health presents both opportunities and trade-offs that need to be considered if we are to reallocate military spending to prepare for the next pandemic.  The devastating toll of the Coronavirus pandemic has ignited a debate about the intersection of public health and national security. Once recognised as global leaders in pandemic preparedness, the United States and the United Kingdom have struggled to integrate policy responses to Covid-19 into existing security frameworks and to allocate resources accordingly. Indeed, public health spending in both countries pales in comparison to spending on counter-terrorism, even though more American lives have been lost to the pandemic than in all US wars since World War II and the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK far exceed those attributed to terrorism in the last 50 years. Consequently, some academics and policymakers have questioned whether the prevailing notion of national security—a state’s capacity to defend its territory and …

While the current lockdown in Pakistan has had a detrimental effect on livelihoods across the country, its impact on transgender communities has been particularly devastating. Covid-19 has revealed a troubling picture of transgender people’s social exclusion, marked by high poverty rates, a lack of social security programmes, and structural discrimination. Over the past years, there have been steps in the right direction towards recognizing Pakistan’s transgender community—most notably a 2009 Supreme Court judgement calling for the registration of transgender people as a ‘third gender’ and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, passed by Parliament in 2018. However, neither measure has been widely enforced. Pakistan needs transformative, equitable policies to ensure equal access to basic public services for its transgender communities, who are currently in a dire situation. Covid-19 provides …

It has become a recurrent point for commentators to propose that we are living in the remnants of an old and dying world order with a new one waiting to take over. Namely, they predict that the US and the West is on the verge of losing its global hegemony to Asia. Even before Covid-19, many predicted that a Chinese-led world order was imminent, as evidenced by a photo in 2018 of US-China trade discussions. Philosopher Antonio Gramsci described such a period as an interregnum where “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” The divergent world responses to Covid-19 have been viewed as evidence of these symptoms. Commentators have continuously compared the inertness of Western governments with the efficiency of China, South …

From 2016 to 2020, China has been carrying a five-year project of hukou reform, granting urban hukous to rural-to-urban migrants. The hukou system was initiated in 1958 to control the movement of the Chinese population. Each Chinese citizen is assigned either a rural or urban hukou, depending on their residency. It is noteworthy that Chinese citizens cannot hold both a rural and urban hukou simultaneously. This has caused major problems for the estimated 262 million rural workers in urban areas nationwide. The five-year project has sought to convert rural hukous to urban ones to help rural Chinese to succeed in urban areas.  As the project comes to an end, it is important to analyse whether hukou conversion – loosening the requirements to change a rural hukou to urban hukou – is conducive to rural Chinese citizens’ educational and social success, …

The iconic statue of the first American postmaster general Benjamin Franklin greets visitors to the Old Post Office Pavilion in the heart of the US capital: Washington, DC. The edifice is now home to the luxurious and controversial Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue at the mid-point between the US Capitol Building and the White House. The hotel webpage invites guests to “share tea” in the Benjamin Bar to discuss “social and economic affairs” as it was the “‘established custom’” in colonial America. It further states that “we agree with Franklin” and delight to “serve tea from China.” The page indicates that Franklin had stated “‘at least a million Americans drink tea twice a day,’” Yet, he was “unable to …

Competition is a natural by-product of major powers navigating an anarchic world. Small states face a dilemma, when caught in the middle between two rivaling major powers. Sri Lanka in particular, has captured international attention as a key battleground between Beijing and New Delhi in their tussle for influence in South Asia. Whilst some scholars argue that the island is a personification of China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy,’ others contend that China’s influence should not be exaggerated, as Chinese lending amounts to less than 15% of Sri Lanka’s total external debt.  Concerns over Sri Lanka’s sovereignty have been rife following the US $ 1.12 billion debt-to-equity swap of the Hambantota Port Agreement and the proposed lease of the Mattala International Airport …

In 2013, Xi Jinping announced the idea of building a ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ across Eurasia. A few months later, he proposed a ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road.’ Five years on, these two projects have been merged in what is arguably the most ambitious economic and diplomatic enterprise of the 21st century: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt One Road (OBOR). BRI involves over 80 countries across three continents and along six economic “corridors”, plus an additional route to the Arctic. It encompasses 900 infrastructure and development projects with a combined cost of US$900 billion. The Belt and Road Initiative includes projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the trans-Eurasian railways network, Ethiopia’s Eastern Industrial Zone …