Australia in the South Pacific

Jan. 26, 2016 Australia is the most influential and important actor in the South Pacific. It has the 12th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP and it is the sixth largest country in the world by land mass. The other countries in the South Pacific that surround Australia – New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and numerous other small island states – pose no threat to Australia by themselves. Indonesia is the largest well-populated country in the vicinity, but it is thousands of miles away from Australia’s population core and also has rarely been unified or strong enough to pose a serious security threat. In fact, Australia is the only significant power in the world that has never faced a land-based existential threat from a neighbor. No country – not even Japan in World War II – has attempted a ground invasion of Australia since British ships seeking to establish a penal colony made landfall in what is today Sydney in 1788.

Support for Political Parties in Germany

Jan. 18, 2016 Germany is facing internal political shifts that could ultimately impact the country’s relationship with Europe. Public support for the Euroskeptic, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party increased from only 4 percent in July 2015 to 11.5 percent in January 2016. With federal elections coming up in 2017, mainstream German political parties are under pressure to compete with forces outside of the traditional mainstream. At the same time, Europe’s crises are accentuating divisions inside Germany’s ruling coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), especially when it comes to the country’s refugee policies.

Suppliers of Goods Imported by China

Jan. 12, 2016 In 2008, the recessions in Europe and the United States hurt China’s ability to export, to the point of disrupting the stable functioning of its economy, which had been built to expect massive inflows of cash. This ate away at China’s economy for years, as the Euro-American appetite for Chinese goods never quite returned and new competitors emerged that undercut Chinese prices. China’s growth rate declined, and with it, its consumption of industrial minerals. The eventual recognition that there was a decline in demand for Chinese industrial products and a subsequent decline in China’s need for imports caused commodity prices to slump. This map reveals the countries that will be most impacted by China’s downturn.

Income Disparity in China

Jan. 6, 2016 There have been signs of slowing growth in China’s economy. This week, the Chinese stock market plummeted, before rebounding a day later. While the economic impact of these developments is significant, the political ramifications are the greater question. This map shows some of the challenges the government faces in keeping the country together, particularly during a time of declining economic performance. In China, income levels in the western provinces are far lower than the coastal provinces, while the interior of the country is somewhere in the middle. This indicates both that the benefits of the growth period were not evenly distributed and that the coastal area could view the rest of the country as a threat to its economic interests. The government will have to navigate these challenges as economic growth continues to slow down.

Iraq’s Battle to Reclaim Ramadi

Dec. 29, 2015 The retaking of Ramadi is the first major victory for the Shia-dominated Iraqi government against the Islamic State, which, in the summer of 2014, seized large parts of the Sunni majority areas in the western part of the country. Baghdad still faces an uphill battle as it pushes further into Anbar province and, more importantly, Nineveh province and its capital Mosul, which is where IS has its Iraqi headquarters. This map reveals the proximity between Ramadi and Baghdad, as well as their distance from the IS-controlled city of Mosul.

South Korean Exports

Dec. 21, 2015 South Korea’s economy is exposed to substantial risk due to the economic slowdown in its largest trading partner, China, and some concerns of resulting political instability are beginning to emerge. The country’s economic difficulties can be seen through its export figures. South Korean exports are thought of as a bellwether in the global financial community because they are released consistently at the beginning of the month and because South Korea is a producer of a wide variety of goods. These numbers have been negative all year and year-to-date South Korean exports are down 7.5 percent.

The Schengen Zone

Dec. 14, 2015 The Schengen agreement removed border controls of 26 European countries and allowed people to move from one country to another without needing to receive visas or stop for border checks once inside the zone. However, there are growing indications that the free movement agreement is under threat, with Greece being threatened with suspension and Germany and France floating a plan to allow for a European border control force to be deployed.

Syrian Civil War

Dec. 9, 2015 Since 2011, Syria has been torn apart by the ongoing civil war. This conflict created an opportunity for the Islamic State to take hold of some territory in the country and even establish its own de facto capital in Raqqa. Different parts of Syria are now being controlled by government forces, the Islamic State, the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, Kurds and various rebel groups.

The Middle East and North Africa

Dec. 2, 2015 The Middle East today is defined by an Arab world steeped in the anarchy of dissolving secular states and proliferating Islamist armed non-state actors. These entities consist of different Muslim sects, the largest of which is composed of Sunnis. Amid the diverging interests, Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State are the main contenders for Sunni Arab leadership. Meanwhile, the three non-Arab powers – Turkey, Iran and Israel – are trying to manage the regional commotion according to their national interests.