1 Arms trade at highest since cold war (Saeed Kamali Dehghan in The Guardian) The global transfer of major weapons systems rose over the past five years to the highest volume since the end of the cold war as the Middle East nearly doubled its imports, according to an annual report on arms sales.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than any other five-year period since 1990. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yemen that has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.
Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. While India received most of its arms from Russia, the Saudis relied heavily on US arms. US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters.
Despite staggering figures in the Middle East, which includes a 245% increase in the imports of arms by Qatar, Iran, which is under an arms embargo, received only 1.2% of total arms transfers to the region. In 2016, Iran took delivery of S-300 air defence missile systems from Russia in its first significant import of major weapons system since 2007.
The high demands for arsenals in the Middle East was in contrast with the plummeting oil prices. China solidified its position as a top-tier supplier by increasing exports by 6.2% compared to 3.8% in the period between 2007 and 2011, while Germany decreased its exports by 36% in the same period. Algeria was the largest importer in Africa.
2 After Brexit, likelihood of Nexit (Khaleej Times) For a small nation that has grown hugely wealthy thanks to centuries of doing business far and wide, the political mood in the Netherlands has turned surprisingly inward. As a March 15 parliamentary election looms in the Netherlands – one of the founding members of the European Union – popular lawmaker Geert Wilders is dominating polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands “to be independent again. So out of the EU”.
After Britons voted last year to divorce from the EU, could a Dutch departure – known here as “Nexit”, after “Brexit” – be close behind? “I see the European Union as an old Roman Empire that is ceasing to exist. It will happen,” Wilders said.
Wilders’ Party for Freedom is a serious contender to win the popular vote, with most polls a month out from the election showing it ahead of all other parties. Over the past dozen years, the Dutch have already voted in referenda against EU proposals twice.
Few analysts think Nexit would materialise: Despite his popularity, Wilders will struggle to find coalition partners among mainstream parties, which shun him and his strident anti-EU rhetoric. Then again, few observers predicted last year that Britain would vote to become the first country to leave the EU, so the worries are real about the possible effects of a Nexit – or a further disintegration of European unity driven by the rise of nationalist populism throughout the continent.
An exit from the EU would likely deal a huge blow to Rotterdam, a cosmopolitan city known for its port, one of the world’s busiest. The city employs 90,000 people, and a further 90,000 are directly linked to its activities elsewhere in the country. Port of Rotterdam corporate strategist Michiel Nijdam believed a Dutch exit from the EU seemed unlikely, though not impossible.
3 China’s leftover men (Rob Budden on BBC) In China, there is a name for unmarried men over 30. Shengnan, meaning “leftover men” have yet to find a wife – and in a country with a growing gender gap, that’s a big problem.
China has many millions more men than women, a hangover of the country’s one-child policy, which was overturned in 2015, though its effects will last decades more. The gender imbalance is making it hard for many men to find a partner – and the gap is likely to widen.
By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 30 million more men than women looking for a partner. In his book, The Demographic Future, American political economist Nicholas Eberstadt cites projections that by 2030, more than a quarter of Chinese men in their 30s will not have married.
Now, with far fewer women than men, the race to find a suitable partner—and win her over before someone else does—has led some men to go to great lengths to find a wife. The longstanding tradition of meeting a potential partner has given way to modernity. Online dating is growing fast in China, as elsewhere, and messaging apps such as WeChat are increasingly popular ways of getting to know people.