As geopolitical tensions escalate around the world—from Venezuela’s humanitarian and political crisis, to Britain’s Brexit, to Hong Kong’s protests, to Turkey’s battle for northern Syria—the only certainty seems to be uncertainty. Four scholars will share their expertise and perspective.
February 4: “Venezuela: Game of Thrones”
The results of the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election continue to be disputed. Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido both have declared themselves legitimately elected. International support has followed geopolitical lines with China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey supporting Maduro and the U.S., Canada, and most of Western Europe supporting Guaido. Francisco Monaldi will explore the crisis, the U.S. response, and what’s next in Venezuela.
Francisco Monaldi is the fellow in Latin American energy policy, the interim director of the Latin America Initiative, and a lecturer in energy economics at Rice University’s Baker Institute. He is also a visiting professor at the School of Government, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and founding director and a professor for the Center on Energy and the Environment, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración in Caracas, Venezuela.
February 11: “U.K.: Do or Die Brexit”
As the Brexit deadline continues to shift, many wonder what will come next. The U.K. remains a European Union member state, at least until January 31. With no agreement and no clear end in sight, will the parliamentary election in December break the deadlock? Or will it endanger Britain’s relationship to Europe and its place in the world? Susan Scarrow will discuss the reason Brexit has proved to be such a conundrum and whether anything can unite a country that seems more divided than ever.
Susan Scarrow is the John and Rebecca Moores University Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston. Her research and teaching focus on parliamentary democracies, including political party development, comparative political finance, and the spread of direct democracy. She co-leads the multinational Political Party Database, an NSF-funded endeavor, and co-edited Organizing Political Parties: Representation, Participation and Power (Oxford University Press, 2017).
February 18: “Hong Kong: China’s Golden Goose”
After 2047, mainland China will no longer be obliged to grant Hong Kong the autonomy agreed to with Britain before the handover in 1997. Under a fifty-year agreement, Hong Kong was to be a “special administrative region of China” that would keep its capitalist system and have its own government. It would be known as one country, two systems. What seemed like a transparent agreement of autonomy and individual liberties has been circumvented, leading to violent protests and unrest. Steven Lewis will examine the complexities of the relationship between Hong Kong and China and what the future holds.
Steven Lewis is the C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, faculty advisor for the Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program, and an academic advisor to the U.S.-China Working Group of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is also a professor and associate director of the Chao Center for Asian Studies, which he helped found in 2008.
February 25: “Turkey: Navigating the Minefield”
American withdrawal from northern Syria has reordered power in the country after eight years of civil war. A cease-fire deal with Turkey demanded Kurdish forces leave the area into which Turkey was advancing. The result is a geopolitical shift along the northern Syrian border: a Russia-Turkey agreement zone and a Russia-Turkey joint-control zone. A.Kadir Yildirim will discuss the new alliances among Turkey, Syria, and Russia, and the polarizing debates over America’s diminished role in the region.
A.Kadir Yildirim is a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute, with special knowledge of Turkish politics. His work has been published in journals such as Party Politics, Politics & Religion, and Middle Eastern Studies. His opinion pieces have appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Al Jazeera. Dr. Yildirim is the author of Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation (Indiana University Press, 2016).