The Beautification of International Relations

My first year in policy debate, the topic was about increasing economic and diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China. One of the seniors at that time delved into the critical literature surrounding US-China engagement and its parallels with plastic surgery. As a freshman, I remember being interested, but hardly understanding the implications for beauty having a central role in international relations. This year for Theory of Knowledge (an IB class), I had the opportunity to finally dive into the politics of aesthetics. This isn’t a proper post per se, but the following are my notes of my research:

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“China” as the Demonized Other

China is everywhere in today’s headlines, whether it is the trade war, the Chinese government’s assimilation camps for Uyghurs, Xi Jinping’s “dictatorship,” or the conspiracy theories following the mysterious disappearance of Fan Bingbing. No matter the topic, all these articles associate China with the same thing: Communism.

The trope of China as a superpower is far from a new one. After all, China was arguably the most advanced civilization for a thousand years. China as a threat, however, can be traced back to the Chinese Communist Revolution in the 1940’s. Despite economic transformation and the emergence of China as a regional superpower, China is arguably portrayed as even more threatening in contemporary society. Perhaps this proves that America will never be fully willing to allow another country to become the global hegemon; China will always be something Other.

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Terrorism as an Exaggerated Construction

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Racism is bad. Terrorism is bad. These two statements seem quite intuitive and intrinsically true. Yet, under careful scrutiny, they are quite contradictory.

What do you think of when you hear “terrorism”? Is it the pixelated, daunting images of the 9/11 attacks? Is it throngs of men clad in all black, with their eyes the only humanistic characteristic left to see? Either way, terrorism sparks fear, danger, and a sense of frustration. After all, why would people have a motive to kill and bomb the United States, and their own countries as well? Generally speaking, we view terrorism as a very real current threat.

Yet, the risk of being killed by a terrorist in America is 3.5 million. According to Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, Americans are more than 3.5 times more likely to die in an accident involving a bathtub than from terrorism. Hence is the question: why is America obsessed with painting terrorism as a constant threat?

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