Category Archives: Campus News

Musings on the mainland

Gun-rights advocates have often insinuated that if the government saw fit to ban firearms, it would see fit to ban knives to curb other types of violence. Though skeptical of gun control, I had always laughed off these sorts of slippery-slope scenarios as far-fetched and improbable. Last fall however, I was studying abroad in Beijing during the 18th Communist Party Congress. For the duration of the congress, a meeting of about 3000 party officials from around the country, the sale of many basic household items was banned in Beijing. These included lighter fluid (to prevent self-immolations), balloons (to prevent leaflet distribution), and yes, scissors and knives (to prevent assassination attempts and other political violence). To make matters more comical, 110,000 civilian “volunteers” were recruited from around the city and paid 40RMB (7 dollars) a day to don red armbands and keep an eye out for “suspicious activity.” The two-week extravaganza reminded me yet again that as an American-born Libertarian, I had wandered far from home both geographically and ideologically.

It was during this trip however, that I was able to reflect on the common American perceptions of China, and how they stacked up against reality. As the world’s second largest economy and a “rising superpower” in the eyes of many Western intellectuals, China has not escaped mention by major American media outlets for a single day in recent years. But when I finally visited China for myself, I realized just how much comparative confidence I still had in the United States.

The late economist Milton Friedman had often emphasized that how people “vote with their feet” should not be overlooked. Reflecting upon this statement, I can only be proud of the fact that over 60,000 people from mainland China still choose to permanently immigrate to the U.S. every year. While I met several American expatriates who were working short-term in China, I did not meet a single one who had chosen to settle there permanently. If all one hears of is the overhyped Chinese “economic miracle” and the United States’ economic struggles, this phenomenon should appear confusing. If one looks beneath China’s thirty-year boom, however, one sees that for all the talk of China “surpassing the U.S.,” flaws abound in the Chinese economic model.

The lack of innovation in the Chinese economy was a constant theme in my conversations with Chinese natives. One student, an economics major at my host university commented that the United States would always be a step ahead of China because the Chinese only ever copied what the Americans did. The enormous market for counterfeit electronic goods in China seemed to affirm his statement, but the failure of China to innovate was not limited to the technology sector. When I asked my Chinese roommate to recommend Chinese television shows to me, he replied that although there were a few good ones, he watched mostly American shows. Before returning to his laptop to watch Prison Break, he joked that he found it humorous that a country of 1.4 billion people could not produce a single good show.

While I was abroad, I also learned that local officials in China were promoted or demoted based on their success in meeting targets for economic development and population control among other things. My roommate, who was a native of the rural Shaanxi province, spoke of how the seizure of village lands for development projects was a point of heated contention and even violent conflict at times between farmers and local officials. The seaside village of Wukan made headlines around the world when its villages revolted and drove local officials out of power over alleged abuses like illegal land-seizure. With no voice in the political process, Chinese citizens have few legal and institutional ways of fighting back.

Additionally, though the Chinese government has been given substantial praise for its ability to direct enormous amounts of investment into developments in a way that the U.S. could only dream of doing, many of these investments have led to enormous waste. For instance, I had the opportunity to ride on China’s newly constructed high-speed rails, the pet project for which the Communist Party has obtained the most bragging rights. I later learned that although high speed-rail tickets cost 35% of an average Chinese urban resident’s income, they were sold at artificially low prices set by the government. Many prominent Chinese economists like Huang Yiping of Peking University, have expressed doubts of China’s high-speed rails ever making a profit. While they serve a small sliver of China’s elite, the high-speed rails have continued hemorrhaging public funds and contributing to the national debt.

As I followed American politics on my laptop in Beijing, I often cursed the rampant pandering both candidates engaged in during the 2012 Presidential debates and lamented the inability of Congress to solve the looming deficit crisis. However, when I remember America’s core ideals of, individual freedom, human rights, and political equality, I am reminded of precisely why so many of the Chinese friends I had made expressed their hopes of coming to the U.S. one day. When I realize the amount of opportunity and social mobility still available in America and the amount of innovation that has taken place here, I can only feel a sense of deep pride.

During a particular discussion in class, one of my teachers, a Beijing native, lamented the fact the Chinese government’s abuses of power could not be adequately checked because one party alone controlled the state. He then expressed envy at the fact that Americans at least had a choice. Ever the cynic, I made an offhand comment on how two equally inept parties made neither for much of a difference or for much of a choice. He immediately objected, remarking that having just one more choice can make a world of difference. I thought on all that I had learned about China, and could only agree. Sometimes, another choice makes all the difference.

Scripps meets Charles Krauthammer

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, political commentator, syndicated columnist, and Pulitzer Prize winner, spoke at Scripps College on Thursday, February 7th, for the 7th annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program. The Public Affairs Program aims “to bring the world to Scripps students” by inviting a conservative speaker to campus each year. As this year’s Malott Commons Associate, I was fortunate to not only help with the planning and logistics of bringing Dr. Krauthammer to campus, but to also spend the majority of the day with the extraordinary speaker and leader.

During Krauthammer’s visit, fifteen nominated Scripps Students had the opportunity to meet him for discussion. Most of the students selected were liberal, producing a cross-ideological dynamic that provoked interesting and informative dialogue on social, cultural, and political issues. Dr. David Andrews, Scripps professor of International Relations and Malott committee member, led the discussion session. He began by directing much of the conversation, but as the session progressed students warmed up to asking more questions.

When asked about how he felt about speaking at a liberal arts college, he said he had looked forward to being challenged, especially by young liberals. When asked his thoughts on liberal indoctrination on college campuses, he joked that “It’s good to develop antibodies toward liberals.”

I had the privilege of personally interviewing Krauthammer after the student discussion. I asked him about Fox News’ recent decision to purge itself of super right-wing commentators such as Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, to which he responded, “I think Fox News has a record of having come from nowhere and today has overwhelmingly the most powerful, most watched, and most trusted news organization in the country. I wouldn’t second guess any of their choices.” When I asked about the current state of the GOP, he said, “They have a bright future, ran a bad campaign, and had a good man but a terrible candidate.” He said that when any party loses, it seems like the end, but expressed confidence that “we will see a comeback of this great party through conservative Republicans.”

Krauthammer was met by an overflowing auditorium and an immediate standing ovation when he took the stage at Scripps’ Garrison Theater for his evening presentation. He spoke about the Obama administration and the role of the GOP in the current political climate. Krauthammer criticized the Republican Party for failing to select an adequate candidate for the 2012 election. He said that Mitt Romney was a weak candidate to fit the mood of the country, and not the right person to make the ideological argument against overreaching government.

Krauthammer believes that Obama’s goal is to return America to the liberal ascendency of the 20th century that Ronald Reagan reversed. He said, “Obama sees himself as the heir to FDR, to Kennedy, and to Johnson.” Krauthammer, however, concluded by saying that our country will not withstand yet another rise of liberalism. “In the end, the social democratic agenda does not work… You can argue about the virtues and the justice, but if it doesn’t work, it will fail.”

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Some of the CI Staff with Dr. Krauthammer. (Back Row, L-R: Amelia Evrigenis, Nadeem Farooqi, Becky Shin; Front Row, L-R: Chris Gaarder, Dr. Krauthammer, Bradford Richardson)

ASCMC Elections Committee’s Exception Yields Controversial Outcome

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On Thursday, Feb. 26th, the CMC Class of 2015  elected Mohammad “Moe” Abdulrahim as Junior Class President.

ASCMC requires that class president candidates  submit 50 different  signatures from classmates. ASCMC set the signature submission deadline from 10:30 to 11:00 pm on Feb. 22nd.

Abdulrahim submitted his signatures at 11:17 pm. His petition violated the ASCMC Constitution: “The Elections Committee will hold a meeting for all candidates at which time all petitions must be submitted. No petitions may be submitted after the close of this meeting” (IV.B.2.b.iii).

The ASCMC Elections Committee passed a motion to accept the late signatures due to the nature of the circumstances affecting his late submission.

In an email to the Claremont Independent, an ASCMC representative stated that a “sudden and unexpected academic obligation” delayed the submission of Abdulrahim’s signatures.  The representative further stated that the signatures were late “due to factors beyond his control.” Another ASCMC representative confirmed that Abdulrahim’s conflict occurred between 10:30 and 11:00 pm. Abdulrahim has not responded to our request for details on the nature of his academic conflict.

The Committee’s actions bring into question whether Abdulrahim’s former involvement in ASCMC influenced the Elections Committee’s decision to make such an exception. Abdulrahim is currently finishing his term as the ASCMC Student Life Chair; his duties include planning and executing all school-wide non-alcoholic events. The Student Life Chair also sits on the ASCMC Executive Board. Four out of the seven (a majority) members of the Elections Committee are members of the Executive Board, including the President, Vice President, and President Pro-Tempore. According the last fully available ASCMC Constitution via ascmc.org, “in the event that an immediate decision regarding the Election Rules is necessary, the Chair shall have the power to make immediate decisions, subject to later approval or reversal by the committee. Both approval and reversal shall require a simple majority vote of the committee” (IV.B.1.b). (As of Feb. 26th, 2013, the ASCMC Constitution is not currently available at ascmc.org.)

Although the Elections Committee’s vote appears to be constitutional, the composition of the Elections Committee favors existing members of the Executive Board.

2013  saw a close election that required precise actions by the Elections Committee. Although candidates won by slim, measurable margins, the underlying petition process proved subjective and  inconsistent.