Event Reviews

Event Review: Address to the Durham Union Society by the Jordanian Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Mazen Hamoud: Jordan and the Challenges facing the Middle East

On the 7th of June 2016, The Jordanian Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Mazen Hamoud gave an address to the Durham Union Society on the current situation in Jordan and the Middle East. This review covers his speech in six sections:


  1. The Palestinian and Syrian refugee crisis
  2. Jordan’s Economic issues:
  3. The Issue of Daesh:
  4. Religious Equality in Jordan
  5. Politics in Jordan
  6. Politics in the US


  1. Palestinian and Syrian refugee crisis:


According to Mr. Hamoud, “20% of Jordan’s population are Syrian refugees, equivalent to Belgium’s population joining the UK. 1.3 million Syrians are living in communities rather than camps, as camps cannot fit them.” However, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) suggest that Mr. Hamoud’s figures are significantly overstated, arguing that the total number of refugees and asylum seekers in Jordan stands at roughly 690,000 in 2015.


Jordan’s issue with refugees for him “is the same as the refugee crisis in Europe: they are taking advantage of infrastructure without gaining citizenship.” This is especially the case in education, where according to the Huffington Post, Jordanian schools are now operating double shifts to accommodate the urban refugees, as “170,000 Syrians are in Jordanian schools”. Rising upkeep costs of schools has consequently increased the burden on the Jordanian government.


However, it is not only the Jordanian education system that is being impacted but also the Government’s tax receipts. According to the Syria Needs Analysis Project, 160,000 Syrians are working illegally in Jordan without paying any taxes, denying potential government revenue to Jordan.


These problems are not going to be short term. Hamoud reminded us that “according to the UN it takes 15-17 years after a war for people to go back to their own country. He explained that the resolution to the problem of lost tax receipts involves Jordan giving work permits to refugees, as long as they do not compete with Jordanian industries such as agriculture and construction.” However, according to the Law Library, the list of prohibited industries includes other major industries such as engineering, medical and education. Hamoud demonstrated how Jordan has honoured their commitment to this, by agreeing in the London Conference of 2016 that Syrian refugees will be able to remain and get a job in the country. In return, the international community provided a grant of $3bn just for the Jordanian education sector, hence helping to lift the burden on Jordan’s education sector. He asserted that if this works in Jordan it could be used as a model in other countries that have a refugee crisis.


However, the Jordanian ambassador also warned against the UN’s favouritism to refugees over local Jordanians, claiming that the UN pays more to refugees than Jordanian farmers, which leads to instability. Crimes that are “terrible and bloody have occurred due to this culture absorption.”


  1. Jordan’s Economic issues:


Apart from the economic issue caused by refugees, Hamoud made us aware of those caused by a lack of water. “Jordan’s the fourth poorest country in terms of water.” The World Health Organisation (WTO) also acknowledges the issue of a lack of water in Jordan, observing that ‘water scarcity will become an even greater problem over the next two decades as the population doubles and climate change occurs… Increasing overall water extraction to meet demand carries a high cost.


It is not only water that Jordan desperately needs. It is also a high importer of energy. Hamoud noted that Jordan imported 96% of energy from abroad and this has been very problematic: until 2003 Jordan got cheap oil from Iraq, however, this ended following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Egypt went on to become the main supplier of gas, however, this ended during the Arab Spring of 2011.


Apart from energy related issues, the Jordanian Ambassador reminded us of the impact of Palestinian and Syrian refugees with the fact that Jordan’s debt to GDP ratio is 92%, once again highlighting the burden they have had on Jordanian public finances.


A possible way of reducing such debt could be by increasing Jordanian exports. Hamoud pointed out that “if 65% of a product is made in Jordan it can enter the EU competitively” and acknowledged that EU trade regulation has become more lenient to Jordan through agreement amongst themselves.”


Despite improved trade relations with the EU, Jordan’s trade in tourism has fallen as a result of instability in the Middle East. Hamoud lamented that some hotels in Petra have already closed down and will not come back until the crisis is solved. According to the World Bank, the year before the Arab Spring erupted across the region, some 8.2 million people visited the country, but by 2013 the figure was down to 5.4 million.


  1. The Issue of Daesh:


Along with Jordan’s trade in tourism, their trade in general has been heavily hit by the rise of Daesh. Hamoud claimed that “65% of Jordan’s land trade goes through Syria and Iraq” parts of which have been taken by Daesh, bringing Jordanian trade to a halt. The ambassador emphasised Jordan’s message on Daesh having to be “a global war” and that it is a “Third World War as a result despite not being a traditional war” later on adding that “if we do not deal with it they will come in different forms.”


When asked about the type of war being fought against Daesh, Hamoud saw it as “ideological” however, Daesh was also “a vehicle to get what people want”, as some of them do not want to lead a normal or poor life, hence they are doing it to get paid.


Hamoud highlighted what Jordan has successfully done in order to destabilise Daesh, such as bringing African Chiefs of staff together encouraging them to stop fighting, cooperate and form a task force against extremists in the continent. However, he also pointed out changes that need to be made in order to defeat the terrorist organisation, using the Iraqi army as his case study. When Iraq fought Iran in the 1980s, their army was both Sunni and Shia, which helped to keep Iraq united. However, now that the Iraqi army is predominantly Shia, and supported by large militias, such as the Shia Militia, Iraq is getting divided setting one against the other, hence making a resolution more difficult.



  1. Religious equality in Jordan:



Jordan’s opposition is also deeply rooted in Daesh’s opposition to equality of religion, which is at complete odds with Jordanian values. Hamoud emphasised how “There is no difference between a Christian and a Muslim in the Arab World or in Jordan”, as it is home of the Amman Message of 2004 that was adopted by all Muslims in the world with its statement that Islam should be balanced and about equality, without there being a difference between Muslims, Christians and Jews. He drew upon examples of Jordan’s protection of the Amman Message such as the Hashemite Kingdom helping to preserve the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Hamoud also pointed out how in the area of high politics, Jordan has protected religious equality by taking a lead in the war against Daesh, which for Jordan, have not only undermined religious equality, but have tarnished the name of Islam. This can be seen by the fact that although there are 1.5 billion Muslims, the 0.01% (Daesh) gives a much larger image of Islam, as a result of the media.



  1. Politics in Jordan:



Apart from Daesh, Jordan has also managed to resist domestic political instability where other countries such as Egypt or Yemen have had less success. For Hamoud, this was because “it is important for Jordan to have continuity with history”, citing part of his speech with the Foreign Secretary: because Jordan was ruled by the Hashemites, particularly King Abdullah who was the 42nd descendent of the prophet Muhammad, there was less instability in Jordan, as Abdullah’s ancestor gave him a strong legitimacy amongst his people, unlike military leaders such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.


Hamoud however did recognise threats to Jordanian political stability, such as The Muslim brotherhood, which has “always been able to operate in Jordan”. Despite this, Hamoud claimed that they had a “red blind” to prevent the causation of instability, suggesting that the power of the Brotherhood will is still limited.


When it came to Jordan’s domestic politics and its relation with the Arab Spring of 2011, the Ambassador reflected on it positively. For him, it “helped expedite the economic and political reforms in Jordan that conservative leaders were previously against, as they saw it as leading to instability.” According to the Centre for Mediterranean, Middle East and Islamic Studies, protestors in Jordan called for measures regarding corruption and the resignation of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The reaction of King Abdullah II was immediate, dismissing the cabinet and Prime Minister, forming a new government within a week. This was followed up by constitutional amendments and revisions such as the creation of a constitutional court and special independent bodies for election monitoring.



  1. Politics in the US:


For Hamoud, external politics seemed just as important as those of his own. This was observable in his analysis of Barack Obama, who he saw as wanting to “bring forces out of hot spots” and thinking that “if America can make peace with Iran, he will be able to focus on establishing trade with Asia and hence bring peace to the US”.


Interestingly enough, he blamed such policies for the rise of Donald Trump in the election polls, as the Republican nominee’s campaign is building on ideas that previously would never have been accepted just like those of Obama (despite a significant difference in their ideas). This is because since Obama has put drastic ideas into practice, such as negotiating peace with Iran and Cuba this has paved the way for the rise of other drastic ideas as a backlash, such as Trump’s advocacy of tighter security measures to be imposed on Muslims in the US, along with building a wall on the US Mexico border to reduce Mexican immigration.



Review: Should the UK Remain or Leave the European Union

On the 30th April 2016, Durham University Politics Society along with Team Global held an insightful debate arguing the pros and cons of Brexit. Apart from learning more about why we should or shouldn’t leave the EU, there was another function of the debate: to poll the audience’s view at the beginning of the debate and see whether this would change at the end of the debate.


To swing the audience’s opinion in their favour Jude Kirton Darling, a Labour MEP from the North East of England and Bob Hull, the former director of the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels took the stage to defend the UK’s EU membership. The pair were to meet opposition from a vocal Jonathan Arnott, a UKIP MEP for the North East of England along with ex-Durham law student Anna Firth, who’s currently the Chair of Women for Britain.


Supervising the four speakers, the Chairs of the debate, Laurence Smy, Chairman of Team Global and First Vote and Dr. Christian Schweiger, Senior Lecturer at Durham’s School of Government and International Affairs both initiated the debate by outlining the historical context of the EU and how it functions. In particular, Smy, explained how European integration was first initiated when the European Coal and Steel Community was created after the Second World War to maintain peace amongst European countries, especially France and Germany. Dr. Schweiger went on to emphasise how decision making in the EU is intergovernmental, despite the claims by eurosceptics that it is made by supranational bodies such as the European Commission. This is because all members of the Council of Ministers have to agree for legislation to be passed. He ended by observing that since the 1990s there has been more debate concerning the transparency of the EU as a result of Angela Merkel doing backroom deals with other EU countries, leading to fear of German hegemony within the EU.


In contrast to Dr. Schweiger’s analysis of the Germany’s hegemony within the EU on an international level, Jude Kirton Darling opened the debate on behalf of the Europhiles, by providing an inspiring story on a more local level. Her mother, who fought to ban toxic waste incinerators with the help of EU law, which she read about in Durham University’s Bill Bryson Library, managed to ban these toxic pollutants despite the opposition of corporate lawyers defending the firm in charge of the installation of incinerators. This, she felt, demonstrated how the EU has enabled people like her mother to protect locals from “the power of vested interests”.


She went on to create a feeling of personal solidarity and belonging with the countries of the EU by reminding us how “ERASMUS schemes have enabled us to learn about and from each other” and that our world is bigger because the EU exists. After all, “You can fall in love in Barcelona and stay there with your partner or come back to London and live with them” all thanks to the EU’s freedom of movement. Kirton Darling was clearly highlighting the sense of common identity that the EU has managed to create amongst its member states.


Other arguments included reiterating Barack Obama’s assertion that we are more likely to have a bad deal with the US if we leave the EU, then emphasising how the EU has improved labour rights, while at the same time, improving economic inequality, especially through the Labour and Socialist MEPs, which through the EU, have brought together programmes such as the youth employment initiative, involving investment of £50m to help young people get jobs. On a more local level, even the Lumiere festival in Durham received EU contributions.


To conclude, Jude Kirton-Darling warned that Russia continues to enxourage and support the far right, in order to further their strategic interests. The implication being that leaving the EU will prove a threat to the UK’s security, especially with regard to Vladimir Putin, now considered one of the world’s “most dangerous security threats”, a claim that many eurosceptics such as Jonathan Arnott disregarded as characterising euroscepticism as far right in order to “poison the well”.


Arnott began by insisting that the money we get from EU comes from our own money and that we could replace every single penny and, according to him, more of the UK’s EU contributions are redistributed throughout the EU. He immediately rebutted the Labour MEP’s claim that the EU improved worker’s rights by pointing out that the Equal Pay Act of 1970 existed before the UK joined the EU.


One of the most interesting moments of the debates for your correspondent was when instead of arguing that the EU was too lenient on immigration like most of the prominent UKIP figures, Arnott turned the tables, criticising the EU for being too harsh on immigration, particularly on immigrants from outside the EU, who face higher studying costs, more difficulty to obtain work and residence within the EU member states followed by the inability to obtain student loans. He therefore argued for an immigration system that treated all immigrants equally.


Arnott made it clear that EU reform was a “piped dream”, as it requires negotiation between all 28 member states for trade deals to be made or for EU treaties to be modified. He even had a humanitarian argument for leaving the EU, suggesting that we cannot help poor countries through trade because the tariffs that the EU puts on their exported goods reduces their demand within the EU.


The UKIP MEP reassured his audience that the UK will not be isolated if Brexit occurs, mentioning how the UK economy is bigger than those of non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein put together: if they can establish trade deals, the UK could get better ones through the sheer bargaining power of being the world’s 5th largest economy.


He argued that it is the EU that is making UK businesses go bust or sack staff, as a result of increases in VAT and finished his speech by accusing Cameron of “campaigning for the EU to keep his job”.


To counter Arnott’s economic arguments, Robert Hull used his expertise obtained in Brussels to make us aware of how the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported that each household benefits by £3000 due to EU membership and that average households could be £4000 a year worse off if we leave. He went on to insist that The US will not be as bothered about establishing a trade deal with the UK since its GDP is less than that of the EU.


After citing the common pro-EU argument that the UK would still have to contribute to the EU budget if it ‘Brexits’, he insightfully revealed how Norway pays more to the EU per capita than the UK despite not being a member state.


Hull concluded by making us aware of the inconvenience that Britain would have to renegotiate the EU legislation it signed up to if it leaves the EU, which will keep the UK’s civil service busy for the next two years and that they “could be doing better”.


However, the inconvenience of renegotiating EU membership was not a major issue for Anna Firth, as she was more concerned with the fact that the UK would not get a say in EU legislation, she illustrated this by pointing out that the UK was outvoted in the council of ministers more times than every other country, showing that the UK already has very little influence in the EU. However, it is not only the EU where the UK lacks influence as a result of its membership: the UK used to have a seat in the World Trade Organisation, but it has been replaced by one EU seat, which only represents “1/28th of  British interests”. But that is not where it ends: 500 MEPs voted for the UK to lose its seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and be replaced by an EU seat. For the Chair of Britain’s Eurosceptic women, it is clear that EU membership only seeks to undermine British influence both domestically and worldwide.


Firth drew upon an economic argument to counter that of Bob Hull illustrating how in a presentation from the director of The British Hovercraft Company, the biggest European exporter of leisure hovercrafts, she claimed that inside the EU they have massive problems with exporting because the EU imposes some of the highest tariffs in the world concerning the countries that don’t have deals with the EU. Tariffs increase the price of the £50,000 hovercrafts by 226% spoiling potential business deals.



On the matter of security, she made it clear that it was the US who defended Europe against the USSR and that intervened in Yugoslavia to preserve peace during the war in the 1990s, highlighting that the EU was a disaster when it came to peacekeeping in Yugoslavia. She went on to assert that the NATO community is 900 million people rather than 500 million and the US pays more into NATO than 11 EU budgets put together, hence it is more of a force to be reckoned with. This assertion is slightly inaccurate, as NATO’s website indicates that the US spent $649 billion on defence in 2015, while the EU’s budget for 2015 according to europa.eu, was €145 billion ($165.3 billion), but Firth still makes a valid point in arguing that NATO spends more on defence, hence it is more effective when maintaining peace and security.


She concluded by notifying us that the rest of the world is 6.5 billion customers, as opposed to 0.5 billion people in the EU, hence the world market has a lot more potential than the EU. Furthermore, Firth denied that being members of the EU will let us have trade deals with much larger global markets, even arguing that the EU is utterly useless at making trade deals, drawing upon examples of its failures to obtain them with the US, Japan, India, China, Australia, Canada.


After Firth’s conclusion that the choice was “between being in or out, but either being out or out and a little bit in”, the debate ended with a Q&A session. This got a bit heated when Firth was accused by the europhiles of mixing facts, which ended the conference in an entertaining manner. Everyone left the lecture room with a lot more knowledge and even a shift in opinion. This was reflected in the poll that took place at the end, where the percentage of those who were undecided rose by 8% from 9% up to 17% in the subsequent poll. The percentage of pro-leave votes increased by 14% from 14% at the start, to 28%. Finally, the pro-remain votes fell by 21% from the original 77% to 56%*.


Both votes didn’t seem reflective of recent opinion polls regarding EU membership: YouGov, observed figures from April 2016, which indicated that 42% of British people surveyed are pro-leave and 41% are pro-remain, but as we all know, pollsters have proven notoriously inaccurate of late.


*The percentages of the second vote added up to 101%, as they have been rounded to the nearest full number.

Josh Moss




The current situation in Gaza: Is there hope? Event Review

On the 12th of November, Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Representative to Britain addressed Durham University students about the current situation in the conflict between Israel and Palestine that is causing massive violence and bloodshed in the Middle-East.

Professor Hassassain is a professor, politician and diplomat who has represented Palestine in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. His time is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Palestine in order to help change its future. In addition to diplomatic work, he has spoken at every university in the UK and is a self-proclaimed ‘unconventional diplomat’ with an academic background.

The professor began his lecture by outlining the poignant issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine war, strongly advocating a peaceful, political negotiation tactic over the deployment of arms. His strong, and of course inevitable, bias towards the Palestinian side was apparent throughout. He passionately outlined the human rights violations Israel has committed as a result of military deployment in the West Bank and criticised the leadership strategies used to tackle the issues in the conflict.

In addition to providing thought-provoking critique of past decisions and current policy, Professor Hassassain discussed the outlook for the future of the war-torn arears, warning that Israeli occupation of Palestine cannot last forever and that the geopolitical climate is a constantly changing field that should not be taken for granted.

The audience was then invited to ask the professor questions which often called into question the professor’s anti-Israeli stance on the debate. These included the subject of rockets launched against Israel, the question of diminishing Judaism’s rights in Jerusalem and the role of Netanyahu in the conflict. Professor Hassassain was able to answer every question in a confidently educate manner and certainly opened everyone’s mind to the Palestinian side of the debate, but hopefully not swaying them to neglect the opposing side of the conflict.

By Kate Dean

Does Linguistics Really Matter? A Review

Geoffrey K. Pullum, IvanFest, Stanford

Geoffrey K. Pullum, IvanFest, Stanford

Does linguistics really matter? – was the question posed by Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum to attendees of the Durham University Politics and International Relation Society on the 16th of October.

Although such a title may, on the surface, appear to have little relevance to the political world, Professor Pullum’s lecture was highly in tune with the politically oriented interests of his audience. Indeed, through an engaging use of case studies, Pullum invited students to become highly sceptical of linguistic based criticism of political speeches both by individuals and the press. For example, press organisation Reuters has been accused of bias against Palestine through use of the passive voice in reporting – however Professor Pullum was able to pick apart the argument against Reuters, by demonstrating a lack of the passive voice in its articles.

Moreover, through an employment of highly relevant examples, Pullum was able to demonstrate the importance of linguistics in political debates. Most memorably, a close analysis of the 2nd amendment of the American Constitution (the right to bear arms). He was able to pick out three serious syntactic and semantic errors with the amendment which he suggests is causing increased difficulty with the enforcement of laws banning guns in the US – for example, the vagueness of the sentence, ‘to keep and bear arms’, leads to difficulty interpreting the sentence as guns are never explicitly mentioned. After Pullum’s lecture, students were invited to ask questions to which he was able to provide detailed and thoughtful responses.

Pullum’s speech advocated the need for politically aware individuals to have an understanding of linguistics in order to be critical of press reports on individual speakers’ language use. He suggested that the simplicity of linguistic studies makes basic errors on behalf of reporters unforgiveable. The talk left students with a lot to think about and being a lot more aware of the dangers of simply believing all linguistic criticism in politics.

By Kate Dean

Second Speaker Event of Epiphany Term – EU: In or Out?

EU: In or Out? With Lord Liddle and Nikki Sinclaire

PolSoc were very pleased to welcome such a great turn out to our final event of Epiphany term, which was a debate on Britain’s place in the EU.

We heard from two esteemed speakers: Lord Liddle, Labour member of Lords, former special Advisor of European affairs to Tony Blair and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. He is also currently chairman of the international think tank Policy Network.
Nikki Sinclaire is founder of the ‘We Demand a Referendum’ Party (offshoot of a campaign) in 2012, MEP of the West Midlands 2012-2014. She is a former UKIP representative, now an independent.

Lord Liddle gave us his views first: He asserted that a debate was required as to whether Britain stays in the EU. There is an unhelpful degree of exaggeration from both sides of the debate, and this needs straightening out. He pointed out that the economically, Britain’s prospects would be reduced if we left the EU. Europe needs strength against Asian investors, and if independent, Britain would have issues attracting global investors to ensure this strength. Notably, Britain is valuable to the US in its place in the EU.

Lord Liddle placed much emphasis on the importance of sovereignty. Global issues such as climate change can be better tackled in a group, and Britain has a better chance of having an impact in global affairs when part of the EU. Britain has always been an integral part of European and Global affairs – throughout history we have always had a say, or an impact, in foreign affairs. We need strength to maintain this ability. Lord Liddle admitted that a strong argument to leave the EU is centred on immigration problems. He agreed that these need to be addressed. However, he finished his speech with the uplifting image of young European citizens from all countries appreciating our monuments and culture together, to emphasise the idea of unity in Europe.

Nikki Sinclaire then presented her views on the topic. She began by asking us what we though the EU was, in order to show how its status and purpose have become confused and unclear. She pointed out that being part of the EU did not ensure security: Iceland, a non-EU member, is a happy, prosperous country, whereas Greece, an EU member, is suffering. She argued that each country in the union needs its own approach; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Regarding trade, Ms Sinclaire argued that the EU was not necessary, and gave the example of Nissan’s ‘empty threats’ of cutting trade with Britain if we did not join the Euro. Britain does not need the EU for power: we are a permanent member of the Security Council, and the US needs us for convenience, not for our position in the EU. She strongly asserted the lack of democracy in the debate. MEPs do not have mandate of the British people to participate in meeting: Britain is merely a member in name. She argued that Britain needs to remain independent and govern our own country.

The floor was then open to questions.

Speaker Event: ‘The Future of the U.S Democrats’ 4/11/14

Last Thursday, PolSoc were very pleased to welcome Dr Jon Herbert from Keele University, and our own Professor John Dumbrell for our second speaker event, ‘The Future of the US Democrats’. The event was in a spacious chemistry lecture theatre, and this week was in the format of a discussion, in which Dr Herbert and Professor Dumbrell were invited to discuss 5 questions posed by PolSoc on the topic.

  1. To what extent did the results represent a referendum on Obama’s presidency?

Prof. Dumbrell suggested that the results did not display a hugely uneven split, and that the Democrats’ popularity was not too outweighed. Dr. Herbert then replied with the suggestion that the Democrats’ popularity varied from state to state, depending on the effect of factors such as immigration and healthcare in each individual state.

  1. What do midterms mean for the rest of Obama’s term as President?

Prof. Dumbrell and Dr Herbert implied that both the Republicans and Democrats would attempt to change their image. Instead of radical policies from the Republicans, and the aim of undercutting the rivals, both parties will try to improve their own party, and in that way undermine the opposition. Dr Herbert added that the Republicans would be in danger of tearing themselves to pieces, with many very conservative and thus radical members elected.

3 What are the significant policy areas that are likely to cause tension over the next two years?

Prof Dumbrell was adamant that with Obama thinking about his legacy, he is most likely to focus on his foreign policy. Dr Herbert suggested that Obama would pick up on issues such as healthcare, immigration and economy, as it would benefit him to be seen to be taking action in these areas.

  1. To what extent to the results show an increasingly unbalanced US between North and South?

Both Prof Dumbrell and Dr Herbert agreed that the division between the north and south had always been profound, and that now the south was resolutely Republican. Dr Herbert implied that this was due to low wages since the recession, and also a spilt between rural and urban areas regarding economy.

  1. How has this changed the playing field for the 2016 Presidential election?

Prof Dumbrell proposed that the election will have a larger turn out than in 2014, and hinted at the controversial thesis of the ‘emerging Democratic society’, which suggests that the Democrats will most likely take the lead in future. Dr Herbert commented on the fact that Obama offered something “fresh” and more diverse, whilst the choice of Hilary Clinton would potentially be falling back a generation. He also observed that the potential of the growing Hispanic vote would be a large factor in the next election.

We hope that all of those who attended enjoyed the evening, and please note our next speaker event is Thursday 25th November.

Our next social is Thursday 20th November at Whisky River (see Facebook group for details and event).

First speaker event of Michaelmas 2014

On Tuesday 14th October we hosted our first speaker event of the academic year 2014/2015, and welcomed Dr Daniel Hammond from Edinburgh University and Dr Oliver Hesengerth from Northumbria Univeristy to speak on ‘China and the rise of the East.’

We had a absolutely brilliant turn out, with almost 100 PolSoc members attending the talk in room 102 Al Qasimi building. Dr Hammond spoke to us first about the process of forming domestic policies in China, and how the ideas for these are subsequently manifested in foreign policy making. He made the point that due to democratic censorship and socialist aims, there are significant boundaries in policy making. Although the fundamental concern when making policies is to maintain social stability and avoid upheaval, the underlying mission of the Chinese government is the drive for wealth and power. He also spoke about Beijing’s implementation of policies on the self-governed provinces and smaller rural regions, and how this system causes a varied interpretation of these policies in different provincial governments. The layers of government cause a fragmentation of the Chinese state, which has still not been unified: China needs to be a responsible power regarding foreign policy, yet the states’ fragmentation makes this difficult.

Dr Hesengerth then said a few words about the China’s role internationally, in foreign investment and infrastructure. He told us that China had no generic strategy for foreign development, but that there are some strategies currently in development. Each system needs to be considered and adapted to the country with which China works with, bearing in mind the resources and political conditions of each country. In the second half of his talk, Dr Hesengerth focused on the different factors affecting China’s foreign investment. Foreign investment is supported by concessional loans funded by Chinese foreign aid system, which are separate from commercial and profit orientated investment. In particular, environmental sustainability in industrial countries affects policy making: the Chinese government must comply with environmental protection. If companies do not adhere to global policies on investment, and begin construction before environmental approval, they risk being black-listed, and this has indeed happened to various companies involved in Chinese foreign investment.

Overall, we were able to enjoy an insight two incredible interesting areas of research, and we hope that those of you who managed to get a seat enjoyed yourselves, and are looking forward to our next event (6th November).