Stuart Block

“One belt–One Drive” – A new Silk Road or China’s Marshall Plan?

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 ‘If you want to get rich, you have to builds roads first’ said Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, citing an ancient proverb when announcing the inception of the controversial Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Alongside the massive $40bn ‘Silk Road Fund’, announced at a similar time by Mr Xi, it is hoped this will fund the “One belt – One Drive” initiative, China’s signature foreign policy. As parallels with the US Marshall plan and implications of economic imperialism continue to be drawn, the key question will be whether the policy proves transformative or exploitative.

 

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Stuart Block

The Economic Cycle looks for a hard landing in China!

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Guilin, a premier tourist destination in Southern China has enjoyed double digit growth in the last 10 years. Chic residential tower block developments with exotic western names have sprouted up amongst the ancient limestone karst scenery, fuelled by cheap credit from China’s banks. We cycle into town on a drizzly mid-week May day along empty multi-lane highways. Cranes tower above nearly finished developments, with Starbucks and KFC advertising pathways to future obesity on the ground floor. But there is a eerie silence, exacerbated by the mist and spectacular scenery. The cranes are not working and many of the finished developments are empty….

Supply has exceeded demand in new residential development…

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Sex Tourism & Career Pathways in Cambodia….

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Chavy sits at a table in Mickey’s, a relaxed bar just off the famous Pub Street in Siem Reap, waiting for the evening flow of customers to pick up. 'Tonight, I make $20, maybe $50 if I lucky’ she says, unexcitedly. The attraction of famous temples of Angkor have made this previously sleepy town the fastest growing city in Cambodia, drawing in a million tourists a year. But not all the tourists come just for their dose of spirituality… 

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Stuart Block

How Fair is your Phone?

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Ethical consumption in the 21st Century: Bamboo Bikes, Divine Chocolate and Fairphones…

Did you know that your smartphone is manufactured using around 40 minerals, often mined in pockets of war-torn Africa such as Eastern Congo whose conflict has seen the greatest number of deaths since WWII? Did you also know that these pocket-sized super-computers can crunch data faster than the (room size) machine NASA used to put the first man on the moon? Very much the the epitomy of the new globalised world that we live in, democratising access to information but can the label of 'fair-trade’ and 'eco-friendly' be added to these gadgets in a similar way to a chocolate bar, or indeed a bamboo bike…?

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Benign Dictatorships - Does power always corrupt?

Singapore

Half a century ago, Singapore and Zambia had several commonalities: they had recently transitioned into peaceful independence from Britain; they were led by strong men who would hold power for more than two decades and they were dirt poor, with annual GDP per capita around $500 in today’s money. Today, Singapore is the third richest country in the world1, more than 30 times richer than Zambia, its gleaming skyscrapers and efficient infrastructure a stark contrast to the pot holes and dirt roads we experienced in Zambia. Many credit this progress to the late Lee Kuan Yew (or ‘LKY’), Singapore’s Prime Minster until 1990 but well involved in the running of the country until his death last year. His model of ‘benign dictatorship’ certainly worked - perhaps it shouldn’t be ruled out as fast as it in the humanities classrooms in the West… 

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Triple deficits and long run prospects for Zambia

Education

I’m writing this from the historic city of Malacca in Malaysia, overlooking arguably the most important bit of sea for global trade over the last 1000 years. However, more on this later as I’m reverting in this blog back to Zambia, mainly for teachers and learners focusing on the OCR pre-release. So if you’re not interested in Zambia or teaching OCR this year, feel free to wait for the next update! Having taught the OCR syllabus for 6 years and spent 6 months in Zambia over that period, I thought it would be useful to add some thoughts on the pre-release,  linking with Tutor2U’s excellent resource pack. Moreover, if any teachers want to skype me into their classroom, get in touch and we’ll try and sort out a time over the next few weeks!

 

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