Beyond Incirlik

The Turkish air base has become a point of contention in negotiations between Washington and Ankara.

China’s Exports to the US

Dec. 9, 2016 The sheer number of products for which the United States depends on imports from China is striking, as shown in the chart below. In 2015, 21.8 percent of U.S. imports came from China. The U.S. pushed for China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001, the year U.S. imports of Chinese goods took off in earnest. Through trade with China, U.S. consumers gained access to cheaper goods because it cost less to make them in China than in the U.S. China became a convenient one-stop shop for building and selling products of all sorts, and an especially strong electronics supply chain emerged in Asia, centered around China.

China also is exposed to the U.S. markets. With the exception of 2013, the U.S. has been the top destination for Chinese exports for over 15 years (in 2013 the U.S. was a close second to Hong Kong). In that period, the size of the Chinese economy, measured in terms of GDP, has increased by a factor of 10, from $1.3 trillion in 2001 to $10.9 trillion in 2015. Last year, 18 percent of China’s exports went to the U.S., a percentage three times bigger than the percentage of exports received by China’s second-largest importer by country, Japan.

China’s Maritime Choke Points

April 26, 2016 There is widespread interest in the rising tensions over the waters east of China. China has become increasingly assertive in the region, and regional powers from Japan to Singapore have become alarmed at China’s behavior. The Chinese recently built an island in the South China Sea, apparently as a potential airbase. The United States sent a carrier battle group there as well. For all the activity and discussion, it is not clear that people really understand what all this is about. This week’s map will help clarify the situation.

There are two seas to the east of China – the East China Sea to the north and the South China Sea to the south, with Taiwan positioned in between. Air and naval forces based in Taiwan are, at least in theory, able to prevent movement between the two seas. The Taiwan Strait is fairly narrow and movement by the Chinese to Taiwan’s east forces China to pass near the Philippines to the south, or through the Ryukyu Islands to the north. Passage through the Ryukyu Islands could be blocked by hostile naval forces or by land-based aircraft and missiles.

South America’s Population: Clinging to the Coasts

July 28, 2017 The defining characteristic of South America is that its geography will not allow any nation to project power across the continent. Those that have come to power have been confined to either the Pacific Coast or the Atlantic Coast. Some were even able to hold power on both coasts, but none were able to form a seamless political entity.

Their separation is largely due to the Andes Mountains, which span the entire length of South America near the continent’s western edge. Other geographic features, however, accentuate the east-west divide. In the north, the vast Amazon rainforest prevents the movement of people from one population center to another and stunts urban development. The Amazon River and its tributaries, which flow from the west to the east, enable ventures farther inland, but upstream waters quickly become unnavigable to large ships.


Four Years of the Luhansk People’s Republic

Since its formation in 2014, the Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine has been plagued by infighting, occasional violence and even allegations of an attempted coup. Not much is likely to change in the immediate future.

Coups in Africa Since 1950

A recent failed coup in Gabon is just the latest attempt to overthrow an African government.

Countries Most at Risk From a Currency Crisis

These economies are sitting on a ticking time bomb of U.S. dollar-denominated debt.

The US Military and the African Front

The U.S. military posture in Africa has often been described as a “light footprint.” Recent revelations tell a different story.

The European Union: Divided on Brexit

EU members have different visions for the bloc’s future relationship with the U.K.

U.S. State International Exports

Sept. 3, 2016 When we speak about the U.S. economy, we often pay less attention to the economies of the individual states. The states, however, are also political and economic entities. California, for example, would have roughly the seventh largest GDP in the world if it were a country. To understand the U.S. economy, you have to be able to see both the forest and the trees.

This week’s graphic demonstrates the level of dependency each U.S. state has on exports and breaks down each state’s top three international trading partners. Overall, the economy of the United States is not reliant on exports, which made up a mere 12.6 percent of GDP in 2015. Only five states, including Louisiana (20.18 percent), Washington (19.48 percent) and Texas (15.79 percent), get more of their GDP from exports than the national average. The most common export destinations for U.S. states are Canada, Mexico and China.

Germany and US Grapple With Wealth Inequality

Domestic problems are affecting German and U.S. behavior in eerily similar ways. In both countries, a widening gap in wealth inequality is creating the conditions for potentially radical political change. This trend is creating serious political problems: In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is cobbling together a coalition after German voters turned outside the mainstream to voice their frustration with the status quo. In the U.S., the government is squabbling with itself rather than efficiently solving problems, whether at home or abroad.

South America’s Geographical Importance

April 12, 2016 South America is an island, connected to North America by a land bridge. We all know that. But South America is not a single entity. It is made up of smaller islands, divided not by the ocean, but by impassable jungles and mountains. The Amazon and the Andes create three islands. The eastern island consists of parts of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, as well as Paraguay and Uruguay. The second island is Venezuela and Colombia. The third is a long, thin island in the west, running from Ecuador through Peru and Chile.

If you have ever wondered why South America was never formed into a single entity like North America, or into transcontinental countries, think about the Amazon and the Andes. South America only looks like a single landmass. It is deeply divided by these barely passable barriers. In a real sense, the center of South America is a blank. A great deal of South American history can be explained by this.

Maps can deceive. They can also reveal. It all depends how you look at it and what you see. Geopolitical Futures sees deep, and seeing deep, it will surprise you.