Last Week in Foreign Affairs (November 19 - November 25)
EU Leaders Endorse Brexit
Two and a half years after the United Kingdom voted 52-48 percent to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May has presented EU leaders with a 585-page document outlining the UK’s transition and exit plans. While none of the other 27 heads of EU member states blocked the plan, its implementation still depends on the approval of the British Parliament. The opposition government, currently staffed by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, is almost completely against the UK’s withdrawal for reasons ranging from not wanting to leave in the first place to regional concerns about economic disturbances. The representative conservative party for Northern Ireland, the DUP, opposes the plan as well. While the DUP only holds ten of the 650 seats in Parliament, this number makes the difference between a conservative majority and a liberal one. If the party, along with individual Brexit hardliners who oppose the deal on ideological grounds, decide to vote down the plan, there will be nothing standing in the way of a “hard” Brexit that could damage markets around the world.
American Missionary Killed by Isolated Tribe
After setting ashore an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal, John Allen Chau, a self-described Christian missionary, was killed this week by members of the Sentinelese tribe, a recluse group that inhabits the area. In an effort to preserve the tribe, one of the last of its kind in the world, the Indian government made it illegal to come within five nautical miles of the island and employs the military to patrol the coastline. Chau paid fishermen 350 dollars to take him within rowing distance. The tribe, believed to have inhabited the island for over 60,000 years, has been hostile to outsiders ever since a British navigator kidnapped six Sentinelese in the 1800s and two of the group died from disease. Limiting outside contact is vital for the tribe, as the community does not have immunity to pathogens that have ravaged countless civilizations on the mainland in the past. Contact between the tribe and modern societies, therefore, has the potential to inadvertently transmit deadly diseases and destroy an ancient civilization. In journal entries before his death, Chau wrote that he understood these risks but decided it was worthwhile to attempt interaction with the tribe. Indian authorities have returned close to the island but have expressed concerns that retrieving Chau’s body may not be possible.
Taiwan Elections A Boon for China
Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, resigned as head of the Democratic Progressive Party on Saturday after her party was handed a crushing loss in local elections. Tsai had always held a hardline approach to proposals of unification with mainland China, one that has grown increasingly combative in recent years. The electoral loss may signal a shift in public perception of the relationship with the mainland, which has been generally antagonistic since the civil war divided the two countries. While there is little desire to reunify completely with the mainland, Taiwan has enjoyed a close economic relationship with China that appeared more and more at risk under Tsai’s uncompromising approach. Additionally, propaganda pushed by President Xi of China has emphasized a return to traditional Chinese roots and ethnicity, something that has percolated through Taiwanese culture. Taiwan has always been a country struggling with its sovereignty and identity, with China bristling at even the mere suggestion of recognizing the island nation as an autonomous state in its own right. The One China Policy has been the official American diplomatic position since 1972, but the US unofficially supports Taiwan’s independence by providing it with defense equipment and supporting its democracy. The elections, however, might be the beginnings of a shift away from traditional American support in favor of closer relations with its their mainland counterparts.